March 8, 2010

Artichokes, Lemon and Anchovies

Artichokes with Lemon, Anchovy and Garlic Dipping Sauce
My Baby loves to dine in courses. This is a luxury that country living affords, and it is divine. I imagine that's the way it's done in Provence or Tuscany; leisurely working through a meal, savoring each little combination of thoughtfully composed flavors.

We anticipate our meals throughout the day, discussing which wine we'll enjoy with each course and asking questions like, "Would capers work with that?", or "Which tannin profile works best with green vegetables?" Sometimes it's an assertion, like, "I'm really in the mood for that Claret we picked up in Ashland", or "We need to use up the pancetta before it goes." Often we begin this discussion before our feet even hit the ground in the morning.

Yesterday's afternoon repose first course was a huge steamed artichoke which we shared, served with a luscious lemon, anchovy and garlic dipping sauce. We diverged from our usual Oregon wine selection and carried on a French theme, serving brie and a 2006 Pierre Sparr Alsacian Pinot Gris. The Pinot Gris was spring-like, with overtones of golden dandelions and their stems, a beautiful pairing with the rest of the course. I felt like we'd stepped out of the pages of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence.

The inspiration for the sauce began with a gift of huile d'olive au citron (olive oil with lemon) from our Francophile/ former restauranteur friend, Mary. Her advice that it was good with vegetables called out for an artichoke, and when I saw chubby first-of-the-season artichokes at the market, I started imagining this simple sauce.

Lemon, Anchovy and Garlic Dipping Sauce for Green Vegetables
In small bowl, smash 4 anchovy fillets with a pinch of salt and 1 large clove of garlic, pressed. Mix in 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. With a fork, whisk in about 1/4 cup olive oil with lemon. If you aren't luck enough to have a tin of French oil, make your own.

Lemon Oil
1 large lemon, zest removed in large strips, avoiding pith
1/2 cup olive oil

Place strips of lemon zest in a small saucepan with the olive oil. Place pan over moderate heat until lemon zest just begins to turn somewhat transparent, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow zest to steep in oil for 30 minutes. Remove zest to store, or oil will become bitter.

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