When we were in the French countryside near Cognac recently, we loved the vine-covered stone houses and crusty baguettes. The produce was incredibly fresh, and it was easy to see why: all along the road to town, there were small intensively-planted gardens, with dozens of varieties of vegetables and fruit in every plot. Close rows of cabbages, garlic, artichokes and squash occupied one single bed. It was striking to understand that this small town can feed itself fresh, local produce and take good care of the land, the farmers and the townfolk.
This pesto goes great on bread, but then you can probably call it artichoke tapenade. This is two recipes in one, because it so much more delicious to marinate your own artichoke hearts, insted of buying the overpriced packaged ones. The pesto is nutty and rich, but also bright and fresh-tasting. Miso is a great replacement for salt, because it adds a savory pungent flavor, and the white variety is mild enough to melt into the background.
Marinated Artichoke Hearts
1 cup sliced artichoke hearts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt, red chile flakes (to taste)
fresh herbs, minced: I used thyme and rosemary
garlic, minced (optional)
Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and gently stir in artichoke hearts to saturate. Allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour or in refrigerator up to 3 days.
1/2 cup packed marinated artichoke hearts (recipe above)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1 sprig rosemary leaves
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbs. white miso
1 small clove garlic (optional)
Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until desired texture. I like when specks of olives and pine nuts remain. Serve with pasta or as a spread for bread or polenta.