Less ingredients, more flavor

Entertaining: Artichokes with Pecorino Romano and olive oil make an elegant first course, and the preparation is simple.

June 20, 1999|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Everyone wants to prepare delicious food today -- but in simple dishes that can be made with a few ingredients.

Evidence of this trend surfaced several years ago when cookbooks that highlighted recipes with modest ingredient lists started to appear. One such book that caught my eye was Rozanne Gold's "Recipes 1-2-3" (Viking, 1996), a collection of dishes with only three ingredients. I was so fascinated by this concept that I began walking down grocery aisles challenging myself to devise inventions with a trio of ingredients.

Recently, for example, I cooked artichokes and served them with a sauce of virgin olive oil combined with grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Nothing could have been easier. I removed the inner leaves from the blanched artichokes, scraped out the fuzzy chokes, then poured some sauce in the center of each. The leaves were delicious pulled off and dipped into the sauce, and by the time the tender choke was reached, the delectable sauce had infused it with its robust flavors.

On two separate occasions, I've used this recipe when entertaining. I served the artichokes along with a main-course salad to two friends for lunch and also offered them with bowls of watercress soup to my son and his girlfriend at another meal.

These artichokes would make a fine first course to precede grilled steaks, broiled lamb chops or pan-seared salmon fillets. I used small artichokes, but you could increase the sauce and use larger ones if desired.

Artichokes With Pecorino Romano and Olive Oil

Serves 4

4 small to medium artichokes (6 to 8 ounces each)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese (see Note)

salt, freshly ground black pepper

To cook artichokes, bring water in large, heavy saucepan to boil. While water is heating, cut and discard stems from artichokes so they will sit upright without wobbling. Place each artichoke on its side and with sharp knife cut off and discard about 3/4 of an inch from top. Use scissors to trim and discard tips (from which sharp points protrude) from leaves.

Place prepared artichokes in pan with boiling water. Cover with lid slightly ajar and cook until artichoke bases are tender when pierced with knife, about 20 minutes for small artichokes, 30 minutes or longer for medium ones. Remove artichokes from water and drain upside down on plate while you prepare sauce.

In small bowl, mix together olive oil and cheese until well combined.

To serve, arrange 1 artichoke upright on each of 4 salad plates. Spread open leaves, and using tongs pull out inner pale green leaves and discard. Using spoon, scoop out hairy choke and discard. Salt and pepper cavity of artichoke, then ladle one-fourth of sauce into cavity. Repeat with remaining artichokes. Serve warm.

Note: Pecorino Romano cheese is an Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. A hard cheese, which is pale yellow in color, it is readily available in most markets. You can substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired, but Pecorino Romano has a sharper flavor.

Pub Date: 06/20/99

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