Autumn brings us beautiful colours, a special light and warm and hearty vegetables and fruits. My husband and I got up early and went to the San Lorenzo market which is the main food market in Florence. I had no idea of what I wanted to cook, but my immagination started to run wild when I saw all the seasonal produce. I chose a bit of this, a bit of that, went to check the mushrooms, the cheese counter and my friend who sells the white truffles from Alba just in season. We came home with our basket filled with autumn vegetables and fruits. I put them on the kitchen table and sat there for a while thinking what to do. I chose this recipe to welcome autumn and it's beauty. —Maria Teresa Jorge
purple baby artichokes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
orange sweet potato about 1 pound
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
very ripe pomegranates
lemon juice for artichokes
sumac for garnish
Creamy pomegranate dressing
pomegranate juice or juice 2 fresh very ripe pomegrantes reduced to 1/2 cup
Note: You will need rubber gloves to clean the artichokes and make the pomegranate juice if you don't want to end up with black fingers like mine.
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Peel and wash the sweet potatoes, cut in equal sized pieces so they cook all a the same time. Put the sweet potato in a bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, very little salt and Sechuan pepper freshly ground. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, remove baking tray, give the potatoes a turn and continue roasting for another 15 minutes until golden. At this point they will have lost a lot of water and they will be shrivelled and very sweet. Try not eating them all, you need some for the salad!
Juice the lemon in a large bowl and fill with cold water - this is to put the artichokes to keep them from oxidizing.
Prepare the artichokes: Cut the stem near the base. Pull off and discard the outer leaves until you get to the tender light green based leaves. With a pairing knife cut off any tough fibrous dark green parts around the base where the stem was. On a chopping board with a sharp knife cut horizontally half way up the leaves. Cut the artichoke in quarters and remove all the fuzzy choke from the inside. Cut each quarter in 3 slices and immediately put the clean artichoke pieces in the bowl with water and lemon juice.
Finish preparing the artichokes and put them in the water with lemon. Set aside.
Prepare the pomegranate: Cut 1 pomegranet in quarters. Bend back the skin and remove the seeds into a bowl, discarding any pith. You will need 1/2 cup of pomegrante seeds for the salad.
Put the 2 cups of pomegranate juice (or squeeze the juice of 2 pomegrantes) in a pan over low heat and let reduce to 1/2 cup. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
Fry the artichokes: Drain the artichokes and dry them with kitchen pper towel. In a large enough sautee pan add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. add the artichokes and fry them on one side, then turn them and fry them on the other side, just until golden and crispy. Season with salt and freshly ground Sechuan Pepper. Remove from sautee pan, put in a bowl and set aside.
In a small sautee pan, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and lightly brown the pinenuts. Drain on paper kitchen towel and set aside.
Make the pomegranate dressing: Whisk together the full fat yoghurt or cream, the cold reduced 1/2 cup pomegrate juice, the olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground Sechuan Pepper.
Assemble the salad: Put some arugula on the plate, add the sweet potatoes, the fried artichokes, sprinkle some pinenuts, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle some sumac. Serve immediately.