If you’ve never had risotto made with fresh artichokes, get out there now that artichokes are in season and so reasonably priced. Sure you can use frozen artichokes and the result would be good (don’t try the canned ones for this recipe) but fresh artichokes elevates this to a different level. Wegman’s Supermarket recently had artichokes on sale at 2 for $1.00 – a real bargain. The low price gave me the incentive to try something besides the stuffed artichoke recipe that’s a standard in our house. Trimming the artichokes does take a little time, but you’ll be rewarded with the unparalleled flavor of fresh artichokes. I’ll take you through the process, step-by-step. First slice off the top 1/2 to 1/3 of the leaves. Reserve all those pieces you chop off. I’ll show you what to do with them later. Then peel away the lower level or two of leaves. Using a sharp knife, start slicing through the woodier portion of the leaf and leave only the more tender parts of the artichoke. Slice off most of the stem. Take a smaller knife and trim the remaining stem and the bottom of the artichoke. This is what you’ll be left with. In Italy, you see vendors at outdoor markets trimming baskets full of artichokes and selling them already cleaned for you. Next I slice open the artichoke and you’ll see the fuzzy choke inside. Take a grapefruit spoon and remove the choke. Here’s what it looks like when it’s fully trimmed. You have to work fast since as you can see, the artichoke starts to turn brown quickly. Don’t worry about that too much. Once you cook it, it won’t matter. For risotto, I sliced the artichoke in thin pieces. In Italy you can buy really tender artichokes – so tender that slices like these are tossed with olive and vinegar and served raw in salads, with shaved parmesan cheese. Put the sliced artichokes in a bowl of water that has half a lemon squeezed into it to help stop discoloration. These are now ready for your risotto recipe. Oh yeah, what to do with all those leaves and bits you trimmed? Put them in a pot of water and get them boiling while you prepare the beginning of the risotto recipe. You’ll use this broth in the risotto. It adds a lot of flavor, even though it will cook for only 20 minutes or so. OK, now let’s get the risotto going. Start out by sauteeing the shallot and the garlic until limp. Drain the artichoke slices and add them to the vegetables, along with some white wine and a little chicken stock. You don’t really even need the chicken stock. I just happen to have a little left over from some soup made earlier in the week. Use water if you don’t have stock. Keep the artichokes covered in liquid and in about 15-20 minutes they’ll be cooked through. Now just follow the standard risotto technique. Add the rice and a little bit of the hot artichoke broth. Stir and let the liquid get absorbed before adding more ladles of broth. Keep doing that for about 20 minutes or until the risotto is cooked but not mushy. I add the fresh herbs after turning off the heat, in order to retain maximum flavor and the bright green color. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy! Artichoke Risotto (enough for two to three people) Printable recipe here 2 fresh artichokes, trimmed and sliced 1 shallot, minced finely 2 cloves crushed garlic 1 1/2 cup arborio rice 2 T. olive oil 1 T. butter 1/2 cup white wine 1/2 cup chicken broth (I just happened to have this leftover from something else but you can use water if you don’t have it) broth from artichoke leaves (about four or five cups) minced fresh herbs (thyme, parsley is what I used) salt, pepper to taste 1 T. butter parmesan cheese Trim the artichokes and put all the trimmings in a pot of water. Boil it on high heat for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, get the risotto going. Place the butter and olive oil in a pan and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until limp, then add the artichoke pieces, the white wine and chicken broth. Simmer over medium heat until artichoke pieces are almost cooked through – this will take about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the rice and keep adding some broth from the pot you’re cooking containing the discarded artichoke leaves and water. Continue adding this broth and stirring the risotto until the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in the fresh herbs, the 1 T. butter and the parmesan cheese. Serve.