Roasted Artichoke and Fennel Butter

It’s artichoke season and every time I go to the grocery store I see a big beautiful display of green artichokes on sale.  Sometimes I shy away from cooking them just because they are a bit more labor intensive than other veggies, but I have to say …. it’s really worth it to get to that delicious, tender little center of the artichoke. And it only took me a few minutes to do it. 

I thought I’d try something completely new by making a butter based spread that can be stored in the fridge for weeks and used in so many different ways.  That way it makes all that perceived effort worth it and I know it won’t go to waste.  Also I thought that by roasting it it would be bring out a nice earthy flavor to the artichoke itself and then pairing it with fennel, which is a classic combination for artichoke, along with a little bit of sweet roasted garlic, lemon and Parmesan cheese I’d end up with something extra special that had texture and flavor and tasted like spring.  And I did!  I love this.  

If you keep it in the fridge and then just slather it on bread when you are making crostini or a sandwich you can put it under the broiler for a minute or two and it will get nice and warm and a little bit melty.  Or just serve it with bread at room temperature.  It’s going to be hard when it first comes out of the fridge.  Another idea is to let it get a little soft after removing from the fridge and place on top of grilled cod (or your favorite fish) and broil for a second or two.  Maybe add a few toasted breadcrumbs if it’s a fish and a slice of lemon.  But I’m sure you can come up with many more ways to use it up….I’m not worried about that part.

  1. Preheat oven to 325.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice water and squeeze the juice from ½ of 1 lemon into the water.  Artichokes brown very easily so you want to rub the artichokes with lemon and put them in lemon water when finished while you work on the other.  Start by cutting off the stem and removing the outer leaves of the artichoke by just snapping them off with your fingers.  Then cut off about 1 inch of the top of the artichoke, cross wise.  Using a sharp paring knife keep cutting around the outside tough green part of the artichoke until you see tender light green.  Then cut the artichoke in ½ lengthwise, exposing the inside.  The artichoke heart, which is what you want here, is beneath those purplish leaves and fuzzy choke. Remove both the purplish leaves and the choke using a melon baler or small spoon.  Continue to cut away any outside tough parts until all you have left is the tender inside ‘heart’ of the artichoke.  Rub with the reserved ½ lemon and set into the bowl of ice water.  Continue with the other artichoke the same way, also submerging in water.  They can be prepped and stored like this in the refrigerator for several hours.  You should end up with about 1 cup of artichoke hearts, maybe a little less.
  3. When ready to roast the artichokes remove them from the water and pat them dry and cut them into roughly the same size chunks as the fennel bulb.  Place both the fennel bulb and the artichoke hearts on the roasting sheet, along with the garlic clove in the skin.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Roast for 35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool. Can be done ahead of time and stored.  Check each piece of artichoke before you continue and make sure there aren’t any tough outer parts remaining. If so just cut them away.
  4. Remove the garlic clove from the skin (should squeeze out) and place it in the bowl of a food processor along with the roasted artichokes and fennel and fennel fronds.  Pulse until mixture is in medium chunks and place mixture in a bowl. Add in the butter, cheese, zest of remaining lemon and 3 teaspoons lemon juice.  Combine well using a rubber spatula until the butter is evenly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Best served at room temperature.
2 whole artichokes

¾ cup fennel bulb, cut into large ½ inch pieces, plus ¼ cup fennel fronds reserved

1 garlic clove, skin on

2 lemons

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Sea Salt & Pepper

Yields 1 cup

*Cooks Note: You can try roasting store-bought artichokes, drained, if you don’t have time to peel your own fresh artichoke or they aren’t in season.  Use approximately 1 cup of jarred artichokes.

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