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New restaurants, recipe ideas, and profiles of local chefs. N April 14, 2010 A LSO INSIDE CA LE N DA R 26 |CLA SSI F I E D S 29 |RE AL E S TAT E 32 The elegant artich ke By Jane Knoerle | Almanac Lifestyles Editor A rtichokes and asparagus say spring to the cook. After a dreary winter of devising a dozen ways to cook chard or broccoli, it’s refreshing to go to the market and stock up on the season’s bounty. As vegetables go, artichokes aren’t easy. They are troublesome to prepare and messy to eat. But inside the thorny exterior is a vegetable that has been prized for its unique flavor since ancient times. planted their prickly favorite. The first commercial artichoke fields were planted in Castroville in the 1920s. Castroville proclaims itself the artichoke capital of the world and celebrates with an artichoke festival, which will be held May 15 and 16 this year. Marilyn Monroe, then a young unknown, was crowned the festival’s California Artichoke Queen in 1948. Castroville is also home to the Giant Artichoke restaurant, which serves its A tough and thorny exterior hides a delectable heart prized for centuries for its flavor Artichokes are thought to be native to Sicily. The plant is mentioned in Greek and Roman literature as far back as 77 A.D. Italians have been cooking artichokes for centuries. They boil them, fry them, bake them, and put them in sauce for pasta. When Italian immigrants came to California in the late 1800s, they soon favorite vegetable in many ways, from soup to bread. Judging from restaurant reviews in Yelp, the food is not great, except for the deep fried artichoke hearts. Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero is famous for artichoke soup, made with baby artichoke hearts, cream, chicken broth, and other good things. Most of us are familiar with the large globe artichoke, but baby artichokes, long known to Italian cooks, have become trendy in the food world. Both Bon Appetit and Sunset magazines feature them in articles this spring. Baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes that grow closer to the ground, sheltered by the large leaves of the plant. They are easy to cook and prepare because the inner fuzzy portion of the choke does not develop, according to the Ocean Mist Farms Web site. To prepare them, snap off the lower petals until you reach the yellow-green core. Use a knife and cut of the top halfinch of the baby artichoke. Trim the stems and all remaining dark green areas from the base. Baby artichokes can be steamed over rapid boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes until tender. They may also be grilled, roasted or sauteed. Baby artichokes are available locally at Sigona’s markets in Redwood City and Palo Alto. Baby artichokes at Cedro Penne with baby artichokes was one of the pasta specials that Maria Nevigato prepared for opera night recently at Cedro Ristorante Italiano, the family’s restaurant at 1010 El Camino Real, No. 140, in Menlo Park. Opera night takes place once a month Baby artichokes, above, are gathered in a metal basket at Cedro Ristorante in Menlo Park. At far left, Cedro co-owner and chef Maria Nevigato displays a pasta dish that features fresh artichokes. at Cedro and features three opera singers in a 30-minute performance, as well as dinner. The next opera night takes place Wednesday, April 21, with two seatings: 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Cedro is a family affair, with Maria as chef, her daughter, Elizabeth as manager, and Elizabeth’s father, Giuseppe, and brother, David, helping out. Although not of Italian descent, Maria Nevigato is a “born-again Italian” who learned to cook from her Italian-born mother-in-law, also named Maria. Maria’s mother and her future mother-in-law were good friends. “She was like a second mom to me,” the younger Maria says. Growing up in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, Maria started cooking when she was about 9. One of the first things she learned to make was gnocchi, which she called “little pillows.” Penne with baby artichokes is a dish Ms. Nevigato says she can put together easily. “The beautiful thing about it is you can eat the See ARTICHOKES, page 23 April 14, 2010 N The Almanac N21 Photos by Michelle Le/The Almanac S E C T I O N 2 &

The Almanac 01.14.2010 - Section 2

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