Much of my decision making about what to make for dinner, and for that matter what to write about in this column, depends on the weather. Of course, I have no control over it, so other than observe and appreciate whatever comes, the weather is, for me, what it is.

When the sky is a cold and angry-looking gray, and rain fiercely pelts the windows, I’m grateful for a warm, golden-lit chair in which to curl with a book, and to leave that chair for an occasional foray into the kitchen to stir a pot of stew or check on something braising in the oven.

On the other hand, when I wake early in the morning and the house is absent the winter chill that usually has me rushing to the thermostat to turn up the heat this time of year, and the birds are chirping even before the sun’s golden fingers work their way over the horizon, an all-day pot on the stove is that last thing I want to tend. Rather, I plan a day to be spent in the garden and yard, discovering more and more signs of spring.

And that leaves me not knowing what to write. Is it spring? Or will winter be back? If I write about light, bright salads and greens, is it going to snow and make everyone wish for warm braises? Or if I do another few columns about cozy comfort food, will the days turn more like May than March?

In the end, I decided to split hairs and give you one recipe that calls for an all-day stove and a few that are quicker and lighter, all using a vegetable that we should begin to see on sale in the grocery stores any minute now — artichokes.

As with the recent weather, where one moment you don a sweater and the next you feel you might change your mind and put on shorts, I leave it to you to decide which meal best suits your day.

To trim artichokes is not difficult. As with most things, once you’ve done it a few times, it’s a snap. Artichokes are worth the discovery if you’ve not had the pleasure.

1. Cut a lemon into slices and add to a bowl of water. Slice another lemon in half to rub on the sliced areas of the artichokes.

2. Cut a third off the top. Cut all but 11/2 to 2 inches off the stem.

3. Remove the outer leaves from the base — about three layers — until you have reached the lighter, yellow leaves. The very bottom and outside leaves are tough, so discard those. Save the rest of the leaves for artichoke leaves with garlic and lemon.

4. With scissors, trim the pointy ends of the remaining leaves.

5. Trim the base and stem with a paring knife so that they are smooth and the exterior skin is removed.

6. Cut in quarters and remove the center purple leaves and the fuzzy choke with a grapefruit spoon along with the purple, pointy leaves in the center.

7. Rub the finished artichokes with lemon and place in lemon water until you are ready to cook them to prevent them from browning.


You can use beef shanks for this recipe if veal is too steep in price or too difficult to find.

1 lemon (for rubbing on the artichokes)

2 medium artichokes, trimmed and quartered, chokes removed, stems intact

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon canola oil

4 veal-shank cross cuts, 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, about 4 pounds

3 cups sliced onions, about 1 large onion

2 shallots, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups white wine

2 cups chicken or beef broth

1 generous sprig of thyme, tied

4 ounces mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1/2 cup heavy cream

Trim the artichokes as instructed above. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large Dutch oven or high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and oil and carefully add the shanks. Sear 10 minutes on each side, or until both sides are a deep golden brown.

Add the onions, shallots, salt and pepper, and saute until the edges begin to brown. Add the wine, broth and thyme, and cover. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

When the shanks are tender and almost falling off the bone, add mushrooms and artichokes and cook covered for another 20 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, cook with the cover off to reduce it some.

Remove from oven when the mushrooms and artichokes are tender and transfer the shanks, mushrooms and artichokes to a serving platter. If there is still a very thin liquid in the pan, bring to a boil to reduce.

When the sauce begins to thicken, add the cream and bring to a simmer. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes or risotto.

Serves 4 (or 6 if someone were to split a shank; they can be quite large).


Often, a recipe will call for just the artichoke heart, and I find it such a waste to toss the leaves, which are so fun to eat and so tasty too. I like these so much because my girls love to scrape the meat from the insides of the leaves, and it gets a green vegetable into them.

These are perfect to serve with the veal shanks as an appetizer, as that recipe calls for the heart and stem with leaves removed.

Leaves from 2 artichokes, very outside leaves discarded

2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 to 2 cloves

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter

In a medium-sized stockpot, bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Add the artichoke leaves and cover. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the leaves are tender at their base.

Drain in a colander and return the pan to the stove. Melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the garlic. Saute for 30 seconds to a minute and add the artichoke leaves.

Add white wine, salt, pepper and lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Swirl the pan until butter is incorporated.

Serve hot in a big bowl from which everyone can pick. A bit of crusty bread for mopping up the sauce wouldn’t hurt, either.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side or appetizer (generously).


This recipe is the quickest of the three, and great for those days when light and bright is what you crave. Of course, you can marinate your own artichokes, and they are terrific, but not terribly helpful in getting dinner to the table speedy quick.

The green beans are a great addition to this salad, and I like them best steamed. You can add them raw if they are really fresh.

4 leaves of green leaf lettuce, cleaned and chopped

1 8-ounce jar artichokes, drained and quartered

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 pound green beans, stemmed and cut into 11/2-inch strips

1 cucumber, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Steam the green beans in a small amount of salted water. Drain and douse in cold water immediately. Drain again. Combine all ingredients in a large wooden bowl. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 for dinner or 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at: [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.