Braised Baby Artichokes with Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes – Recipe

Braised baby artichokes with fennel and cherry tomatoes
Braised baby artichokes with fennel and cherry tomatoes

Baby artichokes love, love, love to be braised. It gives them the opportunity to develop multiple levels of flavor: the browned flavors from an initial sear, the mellow sweetness of the tender artichoke heart, and slow infusion with aromatics. 

Artichokes are mostly associated with Mediterranean flavors, and I didn't see any reason to swim against that tide here. Fennel, cherry tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, lemon and white wine all fit right into that profile. You could happily add black or green olives or lemon zest or Parmigiano-Reggiano (if it doesn't need to be vegan). Peas or fresh fava beans could replace or augment the fennel. The tomatoes break down just a little bit to help flavor the sauce.

I happened to have beautiful baby fennel, so I simply quartered the heads lengthwise. If yours is all grown up, cut it into batons about 2" long and 1/3" square.

We ate this as a course all by itself. Ok, we ate it on the couch at 11 PM, because neither of us had a normal dinner that day. You could serve it as a side dish, or even better as the condiment for pasta, polenta, or risotto. (Which goes back to what I was saying about vegetarian meal planning.)

Most of the work for this dish is in preparing the baby artichokes. It isn't hard but it does take a little practice and time. Saveur has a good photo essay for the first few steps.

Here is how I do it: fill a bowl with water and the juice of 1 lemon. Trim off the upper 1/2 of each artichoke. Break off the tough outer leaves and use a paring knife to remove their base. Trim the end of the stem and peel the stem. Cut into quarters lengthwise and use the paring knife to cut out the hairy "choke". Immediately toss the completed quarter into the acidulated water.

I think the hardest part is just to accept that you are going to be throwing a lot of the artichoke away. But be a little ruthless and you'll be rewarded with a tender, delicious heart, stem and a few leaves. The first chef I ever worked for told me I was being "too nice to the vegetables" – it wasn't that she didn't hold them in the highest regard, but she taught me that the best way to honor them was to trim away the less edible parts so that what I served shined.

Saute pan full of braised artichokes, fennel and cherry tomatoes

Braised Baby Artichokes with Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 2 as a hearty side dish or pasta condiment
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free

  • 2 lemons (divided)
  • 8 baby artichokes, trimmed and quartered (as described above)
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fennel batons (reserve some of the greens, minced, for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • minced parsley
  1. Fill a bowl with cold water. Squeeze one of the lemons into it and throw in the lemon halves. Prepare the artichokes quarters, throwing each one into the acidulated water right away to prevent browning.
  2. Heat a medium-sized skillet over a medium-high flame. Add the olive oil, and a few seconds later, the garlic. Add the artichokes in a single layer and a big pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning once or twice to develop some browning on as many surfaces of the artichokes as possible.
  3. Reduce heat the heat to medium low. Add the fennel, cherry tomatoes, rosemary, white wine, juice from the second lemon, and another pinch of salt. Cover.
  4. When the artichokes are fully tender, probably about 15 minutes, remove the lid and raise the heat to cook off any excess water. Remove the rosemary sprig. Transfer to serving bowls and drizzle on the little bit of sauce remaining in the skillet. Garnish with black pepper, parsley, and the fennel greens.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan or Modifiable.

8 Responses to “Braised Baby Artichokes with Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes – Recipe”

  1. June 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    thank you for sharing this! I have been at a loss on what to do with artichokes, never having grown up with it.. but still wanting to try it coz I want to try cooking everything I can at least once…

    It’s also fennel season here in aussie, so perfect timing!

  2. June 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    Yum those artichokes look amazing, I love the recipe and the photos. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Gretchen
    June 15, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    I wonder if it’s possible to make artichoke stock? They have a weird chemical in them that makes things you drink taste sweet, so I don’t think they’d be a good idea in a routine stock, but it might make an interesting stock on its own. That’d make it less painful to trim so much of them away!

  4. June 17, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    If it were possible to even find baby artichokes in the markets here in Norway, I would be making this dish tonight. Looks that good!

  5. Carla
    June 18, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Looks both elegant and as delicious as food could get. Mmm…

  6. July 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    Baby artichokes love love love to be fried too. I am a huge fan of fennel and would love to include some of the beautiful farmer’s market baby fennel. Also, your use of vermouth reminds of working in a french brasserie.

    A recommendation to you: Recently, I put together a salad from the book URBAN ITALIAN; it consisted of fennel, white onions, orange zest, juice, extra virgin olive oil and mint. It was simply delicious.

    Thanks for your posts.

  7. Michael Natkin
    July 6, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    That salad sounds delightful! It reminds me a little of one I make with orange segments, white onions, olives and lots of flat-leaf parsley.

  8. Christie
    September 17, 2010 at 6:24 am #

    So incredibly delicious!!! I found and tried this recipe over a month ago and have been thinking about it since… so today I typed the ingredients in Google and found the site again! I just had it for lunch and I had to tell you just how much I enjoy it. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!! Delicious!

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