Artichoke, Wild Asparagus, Purslane and Olive Salad on Bruschetta

With Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomatillo Salsa

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Preparation info

    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

Salads

Salads

By Peter Gordon

Published 2005

  • About

Wild asparagus are a beautiful shade of green, with a lovely grassy asparagus taste. They arrive around May in the UK and if you have trouble finding them just use thin asparagus. The buffalo mozzarella I used for this dish was truly delicious – and truly expensive, as it was flown in from Napoli the day before. It was a taste experience that photographer Jean Cazals said he’d not had before but would like to repeat often. Tomatillos can be replaced with tomatoes, but choose ones that are slightly green to give a crunch.

Ingredients

  • 4 large globe artichokes, trimmed and prepared and placed in acidulated water as described
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • handful of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 lemons
  • a little salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 200 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large tomatillos
  • small handful of mint, coarsely torn
  • 300 g wild asparagus, stalk end trimmed
  • 4 thick slices of heavy sourdough or similar bread
  • handful of purslane or other interesting salad greens
  • large handful of olives (I used the crunchy unpasteurized petite Lucques Royal from Provence)
  • 600 g best-quality buffalo mozzarella (I used half of a 300 g cheese per portion)

Method

First, cook the artichokes: place them in a pot just large enough to hold them in one layer – a deep 30 cm frying pan is a good size. Smash 4 of the garlic cloves with the flat of a knife and tuck them in among the artichokes together with the thyme and bay leaf. Peel the rind from one of the lemons and juice it, then add both the peel and the juice to the pan with some salt. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the pan, then add enough water almost to cover the artichokes and bring to the boil. Place a paper cartouche, or suitably sized plate or saucer, over the artichokes to keep them submerged and turn the heat down to a rapid simmer, then continue to cook until you can just insert a skewer into the thickest part of one of the artichokes, about 15 minutes. Remove the cartouche, plate or saucer and simmer for 2 minutes more, then take off the heat and leave to cool. At this stage, they can be stored covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. (The marinating oil left over makes an excellent salad dressing.)

Peel the husk from the tomatillos and rinse them, then remove the core and cut into 1 cm dice. Using a soup spoon, skim 2 spoonfuls of the artichoke braising oil and add to the tomatillos together with the juice of the remaining lemon and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Leave to ‘cure’ for 5 minutes, then finish the salsa by mixing in the mint.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the wild asparagus, bring back to the boil and cook for 45 seconds. Then drain and refresh in very cold water (add a few ice cubes).

Make the bruschetta by grilling the sourdough slices, then rubbing them with the remaining garlic and drizzling with the reserved oil.

To Serve

Place a bruschetta on a plate, then sit an artichoke on top. Scatter the wild asparagus around it together with the salad leaves and olives. Sit the mozzarella inside the artichoke, the broken side facing up, and spoon the salsa on top.