Valentine’s Day is coming up. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather share an artichoke with a loved one than a box of drugstore chocolates! And this time, with salsa verde.
Salsa verde isn’t Mexican salsa. It’s an Italian condiment often used for fish, meat, or in this case, artichokes. Other countries have their versions, too, but the core ingredients are largely the same.
With few ingredients – primarily parsley, capers, lemon, garlic and olive oil – it’s somewhat like pesto but with parsley instead of basil, and much looser like a sauce. It’s an assertive condiment that helps bring dishes to life with its strong citrus and fresh herby parsley.
I recently had salsa verde with braised cow’s tongue at a friend’s dinner party. Sounds gross, but it was tender and succulent, like a slow cooked barbeque. The salsa verde was just as memorable.
Lately I’ve been going to a vegetable market at the Carmine Market nearby where I live (shop local; support small businesses!). The produce and prices are good, and Pina, the shop owner, is warm and welcoming, which also makes it a great place to safely practice my Italian.
I told Pina that I was planning to make fish for dinner and asked for her recommendations on what to serve with it. She suggested placing a thin layer of potatoes under the fish (“but don’t use the mandolin, they will be too thin!”). She also suggested artichokes. I hadn’t made artichokes in a while and they are just now coming into season, so I willingly agreed. It was her suggestion to serve them with a salsa verde, a combination I hadn’t thought of before.
A quick tip about artichoke stems: I’ve always trimmed artichoke stems flush to the bottom so they stand up straight on the steamer. Pina pointed out to me that much like a thick stem of asparagus, the stem of the artichoke is edible if you trim away the dry, woody outer layer, leaving the green core exposed. It’s like the most desirable part, the heart of the choke, so it’s a bonus and not to be missed.
Steamed Artichokes with Salsa Verde
- 4 medium or large artichokes, preferably with stems intact
- 1 cup lightly packed Italian flat leaf parsley (leaves only), roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more as needed or preferred
- 1 tablespoon drained and rinsed capers
- 1 anchovy fillet, minced (traditional, but optional). Alternatively use about 1 inch (2 cm) of anchovy paste
- 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
- 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt (not iodized table salt) (start with a 1/2 teaspoon and add more if needed)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
- Trim a sliver from the bottom end of the artichoke to expose the green core. Using a paring or other small knife, peel away the brownish, wooden part of the stem, leaving the green part of the stem
- Place a steaming rack at the bottom of a large pot. Add enough water to touch the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Place trimmed artichokes in the pot and cover
- Steam artichokes for 30-45 minutes. They are done when the bottom leaves can pull off easily or the tip of a knife easily pierces the bottom of the artichoke or its stem
- While the artichokes are steaming, in a food processor or the bowl of a mortar and pestle, place the parsley, garlic, capers, lemon zest, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and anchovy (if using). Pulse or grind until all ingredients are very finely chopped. Slowly add the lemon juice and olive oil until you have a sauce-like texture. Set aside
- When the artichokes are done steaming you can either pry some of the leaves open and drizzle the salsa verde into the artichoke, or serve the salsa in a bowl and let each person dip their artichoke leaves into it