You know my favorite thing about living in Boston? The Haymarket. Back in the day, in the 1800s, the Haymarket was the place to shop in Boston, with pushcarts crowding the square. Today, the Haymarket boasts rows of tarp-covered produce stalls, run by vendors who purchase the leftovers from local distributors. Occasionally the produce can be a bit over-ripe, but it’s always a great deal. The produce bargains almost make up for the outrageous Boston rent. Almost. Last weekend I bought a dozen apples, a pound of salad greens, a bunch of carrots, a bag of onions, an avocado, a handful of chilis, a pineapple, a pint of figs and a dozen baby artichokes, all for $11.
When I saw the baby artichokes I couldn’t resist. Artichokes, which are typically considered in-season in early spring, have a second, lighter crop in the fall. And baby artichokes, in their tender sweetness, are a special indulgence which usually cost a fortune. A dozen for a dollar was quite a bargain! Baby artichokes are lovely braised in wine and garlic, but today I was in the mood for something a bit lighter, and a bit more portable. We’ve been taking advantage of the crisp fall weather and having wine and nibbles on our roof deck, and these artichoke crostini are a perfect hors d’oeuvre.
It’s important to slice the baby artichokes very thin, and to let them sit in the vinaigrette for at least a half an hour to soften and absorb the flavor of the balsamic. Eaten raw, the fresh, clean taste of the artichokes shines. You could certainly add a few shavings of pecorino romano if you like, but I think these crostini are beautifully simple and wonderfully flavorful as is.
Baby Artichoke Crostini
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
4 baby artichokes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
12 thin (about 1/4 inch) slices baguette, toasted
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
Remove the outer leaves from the artichokes. Cut off the top of each artichoke and trim the bottoms. Thinly slice the artichokes (use a mandoline slicer if you have one). Toss the artichokes with the oil and vinegar. Add salt to taste. Let the artichokes marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. Add the basil to the artichoke mixture just before serving,
Rub the toasted bread with the garlic and then discard the rest of the garlic clove. Top each piece of toast with a spoonful of the artichoke mixture. Serve immediately.