Pairing pistou, an herb sauce made with fresh basil, with tender spring vegetables makes for a bright-tasting seasonal entree; the recipe comes from Patricia Wells at Home in Provence (Scribner, 1996).
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 4 globe artichokes
- 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- 1⁄2 cup plus 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced, plus 8 cloves, peeled and left whole
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs each summer savory, thyme, and parsley, tied together with kitchen twine)
- 3⁄4 cup white wine
- 2 plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped
- 1 lb. fresh peas in their pods, shelled and blanched, or 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 lb. fava beans in their pods, shelled and blanched, skins removed
- 20 asparagus tips, blanched
Combine lemon juice and 6 cups water in a large bowl. Working with one artichoke at a time, place artichoke on its side. Using a serrated knife, cut off leaves by making a crosswise cut about 1 1⁄2" from where the stem meets the base; discard leaves. Cut away tough outer leaves remaining on artichoke's base until you reach inner yellow leaves. Using a peeler, remove green outer layer from stem and base. Trim off bottom 1⁄2" of stem. Use a spoon to scoop out fuzzy choke from center of artichoke. Quarter trimmed artichoke; transfer to lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
To make the pistou, combine the basil, 1⁄2 cup olive oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper in the bowl of a small food processor and process until smooth; set aside.
Drain artichokes. Heat remaining oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat; add the garlic cloves, onions, bouquet garni, and salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the artichokes, wine, tomatoes, and 1⁄2 cup water; cook, covered, until artichokes are tender, about 25 minutes. Add the peas, fava beans, and asparagus and cook until tender, about 3 minutes; remove and discard the bouquet garni. To serve, divide mixture between four bowls, top each with a generous spoonful of pistou, and serve with crusty bread.