The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of artichokes is not the Easter lamb, not even the mint, that suits perfectly to artichokes. It is not the first dip made with the spicy extra virgin olive oil. It is not even the black nails you have when you finish cleaning a whole bag of these vegetables. No, the first thing that comes to my mind is earwigs. And with this dreamy memory I think I have reached the highest poetic climax in my blog…
You know, I’m talking about those dark brown insects with antennae and a kind of forceps or pincers on their abdomen, so ugly. When I was a kid I was scared to death by earwigs, and I remember they used to come out of the paper bag with artichokes sent by granddad Remigio from San Gimignano.
Now it seems they are gone, as the fireflies from the fields. Even though the earwigs were scary, I would love to go back to one of those carefree afternoons that foreshadowed the arrival of summer. when – while doing my homework – I used to watch my grandma cleaning the artichokes with a suspicious eye on the artichoke basket, fearing an earwig could escape from the leaves to my books!
I wonder if the fireflies would come back as well. This year I’m really longing for a summer full of fireflies in the corn fields, and why not, bluebottles that stand out from the golden spikes. Yes, I could tolerate even the earwigs if the fireflies could return in the bushes of my favourite country road.
Anyway, speaking of artichokes, here’s my Easter gift for you, who are so kind to pass and stop by, listen to my rambling thoughts with patience (and I know sometimes with amused resignation). What I’m presenting today is the perfect savoury tart for Easter.
Use it as an appetizer, sliced thin and warm, or as a main dish with a green salad and some carrot if you plan a modern and light menu. Or bake it in the form of small tartellettes and wrap them in coloured paper napkins for the picnic on the Easter Monday.
One of my most severe judges, grandma, has really loved this tart for the delicate and unobtrusive presence of the lemon that suits well with the artichokes. What are you waiting for to buy artichokes hunting for earwigs?
Ingredients for the savoury shortcrust
- 250 g plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Grated peel half a lemon
- Sichuan pepper
- 125 g cold unsalted butter, diced
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cold water
Ingredients for the tart
- 250 g cheese, fresh pecorino, marzolino cheese… thinly sliced
- 5 artichokes
- 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- Grated peel half a lemon
- Sichuan pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Place the flour on a wooden surface and add the salt, the lemon zest and the freshly ground Sichuan pepper.
- Rub in the butter until you get a crumbly texture, almost like breadcrumbs
- Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the cold water.
- Pour the egg yolks into the flour and mix until you get a smooth dough.
- Wrap it in cling-film and set apart in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- After one hour preheat oven to 180°C and line a 26 cm round tart tin with parchment paper.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out with the help of a rolling pin and some flour to dust the working surface and the pastry. Make a pastry sheet about 5 mm thick.
- Press the pastry sheet into the tart tin, allowing the pastry to drape slightly over the edges, then trim any excess.
- Cover the bottom of the cake with the cheese, cut into thin slices.
- Clean the artichokes by removing the hard outer leaves, trim the top – cutting off the sharp points – and the hard part of the base. Brush lemon over artichokes in order to prevent them from blackening before being cooked, then slice them thinly. Arrange them in a radial pattern over the tart.
- In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with salt, freshly ground Sichuan pepper and lemon zest, then sprinkle the mixture over the tart. Season with a generous deal of extra virgin olive oil.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately. It is very good also warm or cold, served as appetizer.
Some notes on the ingredients. Artichokes should be quite small and tender: they are not cooked in any way before ending up in the oven, they are only sliced thinly and arranged in a nice pattern on the tart. This method not only shortens the preparation time, but leaves intact their taste.
Sichuan pepper is not easy to find. Conquered by its description as an intense and citrus spice, I searched for it and bought it on line. It gives a subtle and recognizable note to the tart, enhancing the touch of lemon, but it can be omitted without any problems if you can not find it.