Today's recipe - an artichoke panzanella with Manchego cheese.
Traditionally, Manchego is cut in wedges and served with olives and thin slices of Serrano ham or membrillo quince preserves. But I think the sharp nuttiness of an aged sheep's milk Manchego matches nicely with the nutty herbal flavor of the artichoke.
There is a bit of labor in preparing baby artichokes, so do yourself and favor and get a decent farm made Manchego as a reward. Farm made cheese has a deep, rich flavor that an industrial cheese cannot approximate. Just as there are hundreds of "cheddar" cheeses on the market, there are dozens of commercial Manchego cheeses which don't measure up.
Makes 4 entree sized salads
For the Artichokes
1 large lemon
12 baby artichokes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh mint
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 whole garlic cloves
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
2 tbls. + 2 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 small loaf of ciabatta
2 heads of romaine lettuce
1/2 lb. of aged Manchego
fresh ground pepper
1 tbls. Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tbls champagne vinegar
2 tbls red wine vineger
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
To make the dressing: Whisk together all ingredients in a small coffee mug until emulsified. Taste the dressing to make sure it is properly seasoned. If it needs more oil add more oil. If it needs more vinegar, add more vinegar. Set aside.
To prepare artichokes: Juice the lemon. In a large bowl, combine 1 quart cold water, the two squeezed lemon halves and the lemon juice. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut off the top inch of the artichoke with a sharp knife.
Peel off darker, outer leaves. Discard several more layers of leaves in same manner until remaining leaves are pale green at top and pale yellow at base. Next, cut a thin slice from the very end of stem to remove the oxidized flesh. Trim the dark green fibrous parts from the base and stem of the artichoke, being careful not to snap the stem.
Halve artichoke lengthwise, rub each half with the squeezed lemon and place in bowl of lemon water. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.
For step by step photos of the artichoke preparation, click here: http://nochoiceatall.blogspot.com/200...
Heat large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and garlic cloves. Once garlic is browned on all sides, carefully add wine, water, mint and thyme. Bring this braising liquid to a simmer and add artichokes cut side down. Cover and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
(NOTE: if you are making this salad in the summer, take the artichokes out of the braising liquid after only 10 minutes and finish outside on the charcoal grill. The smoke from the grill adds phenomenal flavor.)
To prepare bread: While artichokes are simmering, place cookie sheet in oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut bread into small, bite sized cubes. Place in a bowl with 2 tbls. olive oil, a couple pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper. Toss to coat. Once the oven is preheated, place the bread cubes on the preheated cookie sheet in a single layer. Shake the pan every five minutes to keep the bread from burning on any one side. Once the bread is nicely browned, remove from oven and set aside.
To prepare chicken: While bread is in the oven, heat a medium saute pan over high heat for two minutes. Season chicken breasts with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan. When the oil starts to shimmer, add chicken. Saute for three minutes on one side then flip to the other. Saute for another three minutes. Turn off the heat and place the pan in the oven with the bread to finish cooking the chicken (approx five minutes). Allow the chicken to rest on the cutting board for a few minutes before cutting into cubes.
To assemble salad: In a medium sized bowl, add the bread cubes, chicken cubes, artichokes and half of the salad dressing. Toss thoroughly to coat. Chop the romaine lettuce into small pieces and add to a large bowl. Toss with remaining dressing (NOTE: add a bit of dressing at a time to make sure you don't over dress). Toss the chicken, bread and artichokes with the lettuce to mix. Divide evenly between four plates.
Crack fresh pepper over each plate. Using a vegetable peeler, shave a generous portion of Manchego over each salad. Enjoy.