Aunt Suzy says . . . .

This is a fast, easy and delicious meal-in-a-bowl that I learned in my early 20’s.  I lived in New York City at the time and was taught this dish by a friend whose husband was originally from Spain.  My friend, who called this Pisto, learned it from her mother-in-law.  You might note I’m not calling it this, which is because I’ve understood since that Pisto usually refers to the Spanish version of ratatouille.  Although, I just looked up Pisto to find  in the Spanish dictionary that it cites a secondary definition as “hodgepodge”, which could be used to describe this dish.  Whatever it’s called, I’ve been making and loving this all my adult life.  I had not made it recently, but was reminded about it by my brother John, who cooked it last week.  It’s a dish that once I’ve got it in front of me, I can’t get enough of.  I hope you enjoy the unusual blending of flavors in this hodgepodge of rice, artichokes, roasted red peppers and a healthy dose of garlic – all drenched in lemon.   And as Randy said − “great mouth appeal”.  Serve with a salad with lemon-olive oil dressing and a nice lemony Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino.

This recipe serves 6 and can be cut in half

2 cups white or brown rice

3 1/2 cups water or chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 15-ounce cans artichoke hearts (NOT marinated), 10-11 medium

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, about 2 large

4 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons butter

1 8-ounce ham slice, diced

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 lemons, either Meyer or Eureka

Place the rice and liquid in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till done.  (White rice about 20 minutes, brown rice about 40 minutes)

Meanwhile, cut the artichoke hearts in quarters.  Cut the roasted peppers in 1 x 1/2-inch strips.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  When just starting to bubble, add the garlic and stir for a minute.  Add the artichokes and roasted red pepper.  Turn heat down to medium low and simmer until the rice is done.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the olive oil till shimmering.  Add the ham pieces and saute on medium high heat for 5 or so minutes until it starts to brown.  Add the ham to the artichoke mixture and stir to blend.

When the rice is done, place in a large bowl, add the artichoke-ham mixture and stir to thoroughly blend all together.  Serve with lemon wedges.  People can squeeze juice from 1-2 wedges over their individual servings.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS:  I almost always make this with brown rice, but white is good and quicker if pressed for time. I almost always use chicken stock or part stock/part water for a richer taste.  Look for smoked ham with the least amount of sugar and definitely not one where maple syrup has been used in the curing.  I prefer Meyer lemons, but regular Eureka lemons are delicious as well.  I learned to make this with butter (even more than I called for!), but I think olive oil could be substituted.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

This recipe is a riff on Aunt Cindy’s Artichoke, Edamame and Asparagus salad.  She had raved about that salad to me the week before I was having friends over for a cookout.  It occurred to me that this would be a great basis for a pasta salad, and I just went crazy from there making adaptations.  Like the A.E.A. salad this is based on, it was such a hit that it’s been made for more than one recent event.  Thanks to niece Sarah for suggesting the cherry tomatoes.  We served this with grilled chicken and Spring Farmer’s Mkt Potato Salad, which made for a great summer meal.

The Dressing

3 tablespoons EV Olive Oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced

Juice of 1-2 cloves of garlic, using a garlic press

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together in the bottom of a large salad bowl.  Set aside at room temperature.

The Salad

1 can or jar of artichoke hearts, drained (I like the ones with stems from Trader Joe’s)

1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed

1 lemon, thinly sliced crosswise

1/2-2/3 pound small dried pasta shapes

2 pints cherry tomatoes (I used the multi-colored ones from Trader Joe’s), cut in half

1/2-3/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1/2-3/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 425° and place the top rack one down from the top of the oven.   Pat the artichokes and asparagus dry.  Line a cookie sheet or broiler pan bottom with foil and cover lightly in EV olive oil.  Place the asparagus, artichokes and thinly sliced lemon on the foil and turn to coat all items with a little olive oil.  Place the pan in the pre-heated oven and roast for 7-10 minutes until done.  The asparagus does not need to be turned, but you will want to turn the artichokes and lemon slices a couple of times.  I found that the artichoke hearts and lemon could go longer, so I removed the asparagus after 7 minutes and placed the pan back in the oven for about 5 minutes more.

Cut the cooked asparagus into 2-inch lengths and the artichoke hearts into small pieces.  Cut the roasted lemon into small dice.  Add these ingredients to the dressing in the salad bowl.

In the meantime, cook the pasta al dente according to package directions.  Drain and let cool.  NOTE:  I did not like the shells and used spirals the next time I made this – much preferred!  Add the cooled pasta to the bowl and toss to thoroughly blend and coat everything with the dressing.  Add the cherry tomatoes to the salad and stir to blend.  Lastly, add the mint and basil, stir to blend.  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Let sit at room temperature to blend the flavors for at least 30 minutes.