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Credit: John Ross
Olive oil-poached artichokes and chicken; ready to cook. (Credit: John Ross)

The cold winter and early spring months are the best time to enjoy some of the things not grown on Long Island, such as tropical fruits like mango and vegetables like the artichoke. They give us some much-needed variety while awaiting the season for our own produce.

All of the artichokes sold commercially in the United States are grown in and around Castroville, Calif.

We see them most frequently on Italian restaurant menus as appetizers, stuffed with garlicky bread crumbs in and around the leaves.

Dismantling and eating the artichoke takes a little patience and expertise, but that is part of the attraction, and below all the prickly leaves and fuzzy choke is the artichoke bottom, a hidden delicacy full of flavor.

Artichoke hearts are the one vegetable I recommend buying frozen.

When thawed and cooked they make a great addition to many dishes. The artichoke has a unique fl avor that can complement other foods.

Here are some suggestions:

GRAY SOLE POACHED IN ARTICHOKE SAUCE

Purchase 1 1/2 pounds gray sole and cut the fillets lengthwise through the lateral line. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper and fold into small squares. Spray a shallow casserole with no-stick and place the fillets in it.

For the sauce, heat a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in 2 minced shallots, 1 minced stalk of celery and 1 peeled and diced carrot.

Cook at low heat.

Coarsely chop 1/2 package of frozen artichoke hearts and add them to the sauté pan. (Reserve the rest for poaching.) Continue cooking and add 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. Simmer for 10 minutes and purée the whole mixture in a food processor and return it to the saucepan.

Add 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper. Simmer another 5 minutes and strain over the fish in the casserole. Add the reserved artichoke hearts to the casserole. Cut a piece of foil to fit snuggly and spray with no stick before placing it on the fish.

Put in a 400-degree oven and cook until the fi sh turns opaque, about 20 minutes.

Serves 4.

STUFFED GLOBE ARTICHOKES WITH SHRIMP SCAMPI

Artichokes:  Purchase 4 large artichokes.

Add 2 quarts cold water to a large bowl and squeeze 1 lemon into it. Toss in the lemon rind.

Cut the stems off the artichokes at the base. Peel and trim the stems and put them in the lemon water.

Cut the tops off the artichokes 1 inch down from the top, break off all the outside leaves and submerge in the lemon water.

Set each artichoke on its base and open it up with your fingers. Twist the inner leaves out and, using a spoon, scrape out the fuzzy choke at the bottom.

Trim the dark green off the base with a paring knife and dip the artichoke in the lemon water again.

Stand the artichokes upright in a saucepan just big enough to hold them. Place the peeled stems around them. Bring the lemon water to a boil in a separate pan and pour it over the artichokes to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 25 minutes. Carefully lift them out of the water and drain.

Remove the cooked stems, chop coarsely and save for the stuffing.

Stuffing:  Heat a dry sauté pan and toast 1/2 cup pine nuts for 5 minutes.

Remove and chop.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the sauté pan and stir in 1 bunch of chopped green onions, 3 cloves minced garlic and the reserved chopped stems. Cook on low heat for 3 minutes and add 1 4-ounce jar of chopped pimientos, 1/4 cup capers, 1 small can of anchovies, chopped, and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Cook another 3 minutes and add the pine nuts and 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper.

Stir in 1 cup panko crumbs, check for seasoning and remove.

Fill the artichokes with the stuffing and stand them upright on a foil-lined sheet pan.

Scampi: Peel and de-vein 1 pound of jumbo shrimp, making deep cuts down the backs. Stand them up in a shallow casserole.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a small pan and add 4 cloves of minced garlic. Pour this over the shrimp and sprinkle the shrimp with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour 1/4 cup white wine over the shrimp and place them in a 400-degree oven along with the stuffed artichokes. The shrimp should be cooked in 10 to 15 minutes and the artichokes will be hot.

Place the stuffed artichokes and the shrimp in a 400-degree oven until the shrimp are cooked, about 15 minutes.

Serves 4.

OLIVE OIL-POACHED ARTICHOKES AND CHICKEN

Cut off the tops of 2 large artichokes, pull off the outer leaves and split each in half lengthwise through the stem.

Cut out the chokes and inner leaves with a paring knife and peel the stems.

Dip in lemon water as above.

Place artichokes cut side down in a shallow saucepan. Put 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts alongside the artichokes. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary and 1 teaspoon each of kosher salt and ground pepper.

Cut a lemon in quarters, squeeze the juice into the pan and add the rinds. Pour 1 cup extra virgin olive oil over the artichokes and chicken, then add just enough water to come up half way on the artichokes.

Cut a piece of foil to fi t the pan and spray it with no-stick. Press the foil down on the artichokes to cover and place the regular lid on the pan. Put the pan on medium heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. The artichoke leaves should be very tender and the chicken just cooked.

To serve, slice the chicken breasts into quarter-inch slices and place them on top of the artichokes. Serve with rice and spoon some of the cooking liquid over the artichokes.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected].

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