ENRICH YOUR LIFE WITH INSPIRED COOKING Roasted Artichoke Salad with Peas and Olives

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by Alan Roettinger

Who doesn’t want to be healthy? It’s central to our sense of well-being that our bodies function well and support our activities. Most people intuitively understand what it takes to build and maintain a healthy body. It’s not complicated: eat right, exercise regularly, get rest. There is a little more to it than that, because we’re not just physical creatures; there are a few factors that are more difficult to manage, such as social, emotional, stress and self-esteem, among others, that can deeply affect our state of health. Even how we breathe can have a powerful impact on both our physical and mental health.

But let’s make it easy on ourselves. What we eat can help address nearly all aspects of human health. Carefully chosen, our food will provide excellent fuel and sustenance to power and nourish our cells. This enables us to do healthful exercise and to build healthy blood, bones and tissues. Properly and thoughtfully prepared, our food can also heal infirmities, excite our imagination, stimulate fabulous pleasure, uplift our spirit and even trigger a profound feeling of gratitude.

Food can do all of that, and more. Why? Because we need it. We need to breathe, and inhaling cool, crisp, clean mountain air feels absolutely magnificent. We need to eat, and eating delicious wholesome food — especially when we’re very hungry — is among the most gratifying experiences life has to offer.

It’s important for food to be healthful. but to be good food it must be made by inspired people who are willing to give it their full attention. The value of food prepared this way cannot be overstated. The right food can transform a life forever. Seriously. I still vividly recall a soup I had in Luxembourg when I was eighteen years old. The brilliant flavors in that sexy cup of soup are alive and well in my taste memory to this day. I’ve long ago forgotten the name of the restaurant and many of the other details, but that astonishing spoonful knocked the trajectory of my life irrevocably onto a path that has been nothing short of miraculous for me.

I won’t lie to you, good food takes some effort and requires attention. But isn't it the same for everything of value? The good news is, it really doesn’t take that much extra effort, and it doesn't take much to go from decent food to extraordinary food. All you have to do is want it enough to make the effort. For example, try this spring salad I created just for this occasion!

Roasted Artichoke Salad with Peas and Olives

Makes 4 servings

4 large artichokes, preferably with long, thick stems attached

1 lemon

4 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

10 ounces petite garden peas

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ large fennel bulb, cored and cut into ¼-inch dice

½ cup green olives, preferably Castelvetrano, cut into ¼-inch dice

3 tablespoons capers, drained

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Snap off the tough outer leaves of the artichokes. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice through a strainer into a large bowl. Cut away the tough, fibrous outer portion from an artichoke, including the stem, exposing the tender white flesh underneath. Rub the exposed flesh with a lemon half as you work to prevent discoloration. Cut the leaves off just above the heart. Cut the artichoke into quarters lengthwise, and carve out the hairy choke. Rub with the lemon and then put the quarters in the bowl with the lemon juice, tossing gently to coat. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Remove the artichokes from the lemon juice and put them in a medium roasting pan. Save the lemon juice. Add 1½ tablespoons of the olive oil, ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper to the roasting pan. Toss well. Put the pan in the oven and roast the artichokes for 40 minutes, turning them every 10 minutes to assure even browning.

While the artichokes are roasting, bring a medium pot of water to a boil with ½ teaspoon of the remaining salt and add the peas. Cook for about 2 minutes, and then drain. Refresh under cold running water and drain thoroughly.

Whisk the lemon juice, mustard, and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a large bowl until emulsified, about one minute. Add the warm artichokes, peas, fennel, olives, capers and parsley. Toss gently but thoroughly. Divide among four plates and serve at once.

Alan Roettinger is a writer, food designer, blogger, public speaker, and a private chef with over 30 years of experience. Author of four cookbooks, his primary focus is bringing health and pleasure together in food. Alan is passionate about encouraging and empowering people to “Eat smart, and live joyfully.” Visit him at www.alanroettinger.com