This morning I was paging through my cookbooks to research Easter recipes. My contribution to the table this year is a vegetable side dish and I’m excited to celebrate fresh, spring produce at the holiday table. After months of hearty roasts and root vegetables, I’m always so excited for the bright, crisp flavors of Spring. So I pulled one of my favorites from the shelf: Lydia Bastianich’s Lydia’s Italy in America and quickly found the inspiration I needed.
Lydia is one of my favorite Italian chefs – her style is so relaxed and approachable and her food is ridiculously delicious – and apparently lusty?!?! (See blurb on cover.) Ummm. Anyway, this book chronicles the broad reach of Italian food throughout the States and I had my copy signed when she spoke a couple years ago at SUNY Purchase. So yeah, I’m a
I’m considering making Lydia’s recipe for Braised Artichokes (Carciofi Brasati). Artichokes are in season in early spring and are perfect on the Easter table. They’re also major crowd pleasers – even folks who don’t like vegetables happily gobble them up.
But I do have a sweet spot for artichokes, especially this time of year. Tomorrow is our 3-year wedding anniversary (!) and I can’t think about artichokes without being reminded of that happy day. We designed our wedding around the concept of a Mediterranean Spring Harvest. To convey our theme, I chose the artichoke (and rabbit) as design motifs throughout our celebration. I love the beautiful geometric pattern that the artichoke’s leaves make at the crown and the fact that they’re tough and spiky. They’re like roses that ride motorcycles.
Our dear family friend designed our menus, programs and table numbers and we asked her to work artichokes into the menus. (BTW, “Per Cent’Anni” means “for one hundred years.” In Italian-American dialect it’s often exchanged as a toast, pronounced “Chin-Don,” and has also made a nice cameo in a recent Jay-Z song.)
We also decided to use artichokes in lieu of flowers for our centerpieces. I couldn’t deal with the fuss of floral arrangements and I liked the idea of people taking them home to cook and eat. Plus, we really wanted food to be at the center of our family-style celebration and to keep the arrangements low enough for guests to converse across the table.
Oh, Darling! Photography
The artichokes for the centerpieces were a gift from my bridesmaid/best friend’s family, the D’Arrigos. They own a family-run produce business, Andy Boy, which is best known for bringing broccoli rabe to the United States. You would know Andy Boy by their hot pink logo in the produce aisle. Coincidentally, on the page opposite Lydia’s recipe for Braised Artichokes she writes about her visit to the Andy Boy farms in Salinas, CA and talks about the D’Arrigo Family’s history and major contribution to the American food industry. Whaaa! Totally awesome.
The artichokes were such a hit, they also made several appearances as maracas and rabbit ears in our photo booth:
I love looking back and remembering all of the fun we had that day. We had lots of help from family and friends putting together the event and there’s plenty more to share. In the meantime, I’d better figure out what I’m going to bring to Easter!