We found this recipe in Chez Panisse Cooking while looking for a creative way to use some semi-impulse-bought baby artichokes. (They were from Castroville and on special at Whole Foods. Even die-hard locavores couldn’t resist.) We were initially attracted by the interesting mix of ingredients, a step up from our previous effort. Then we were intrigued by Paul Bertolli’s perplexing introduction. Telling us his mother “used marinated artichokes and a type of green Spanish olive ” he “can’t find anymore,” Bertolli goes on to say his version “doesn’t taste quite the same.” Further deepening the mystery, Bertolli merely specifies “green olives,” leaving us in the dark about what taste (oregano? metallic?) may have been missing from his version.
Left to our own devices, we chose garlic-marinated green olives. Because we like garlic. And because they were the only pre-pitted variety available at the grocery near Michelle’s office. We omitted the called-for cherry tomatoes because it’s not yet their season, but found fresh sage from some hardy overwintered stuff sprouting outside our kitchen door. The meatballs were easy, because we had some stashed in the freezer. Steve made eggy, thick noodles to go with the broth-braised chokes and meat. Without too much (OK, some) trouble, our definition of this Chez Panisse dish was done.
Should we stumble on some more baby artichokes we may very well make this again. If it’s during tomato season, we’ll probably throw some cherries into the mix and see what happens. Perhaps it’s not exactly what Mama Bertolli wanted, but we think iteration is the sincerest form of flattery. (That is how the saying goes, isn’t it?)
MEATBALLS WITH ARTICHOKES, GREEN OLIVES AND SAGE
(adapted from Paul Bertolli’s Chez Panisse Cooking)
- 1 large onion, quartered and sliced in half moon shapes
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 to 1-1/2 lbs. baby artichokes
- 12 meatballs*
- 1/3 c. coarsely chopped green olives
- 1 TB coarsely chopped sage
- 1/2 c. chicken stock
Preheat oven to 350°.
Sauté onions in 1 TB olive oil until softened but not browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add 3/4 of the garlic slices and toss. Transfer to a 1-1/2 quart baking dish.
Fill a medium bowl halfway with water. Add half of the lemon juice to the water. Cut off tops of artichokes. Remove outer leaves. Cut off stems. Pare away the green parts of the bases. Cut artichokes into quarters and place in the lemon water.
Lightly brown meatballs in olive oil in a skillet. Then, set them atop the onions and garlic in the baking dish.
Drain the artichokes. Toss them with remaining garlic slices, remaining lemon juice, olives, sage, a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Distribute the artichoke mixture around the meatballs. Pour stock over. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour.
Serve with fresh egg noodles which have been tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese.
* Use whatever sort of meatballs you want. We make ours much like Conor Bofin’s recipe, with the addition of ground veal.