I am broke. I mean, normally, I am quite poor and I must be careful with how I spend my money – but it rarely requires my budgeting to move beyond entertainment and into pure subsistence. I thought those days had passed after my first round of university studies. But alas, my visit with N, my reckless calculations of dollars to pounds and my travel around Canada have left my bank account brittle, weak and a little cranky. My diet seems to be suffering as well.
To rectify this I decided to try to clean out the strange remnants and scraps of food that are hanging around my cupboard to put off a trip to the grocery store as long as possible. That tin of white asparagus from Spain? No longer to be saved for that potential pintxos/tapas party – it’s part of dinner. My forgotten frozen bag of peas will soon be blended and blitzed into funky crostinis for my loaf of frozen bread. And in the dustiest corner of my kitchen, I found a long forgotten can of artichokes. I had bought them to recreate another one of my favourite Spanish dishes – and I decided to consume them posthaste.
I learned to make this dish while living in the Basque region of Northern Spain – where dinner is served late and small, and is whatever you have lying around. In my family we would eat pieces of bread and cheese, leftover vegetables from lunch or a piece of meat with no vegetables at all. While living there I enjoyed this freedom from traditional (North American) conceptions of a ‘balanced’ meal and I sought to recreate this with my lone can of artichokes and half a packet of Parma ham (a decent substitute for jamón serrano).
I of course had to make due with canned artichokes. In Spain, my family would buy a giant bag of fresh artichokes, spend an hour carving them into hearts, 10 minutes boiling them in the pressure cooker, and then they would be friends with jamón serrano and a touch of olive oil for an ‘easy’ supper at around 10pm at night. Canned artichokes have a more briny flavour than fresh, and certainly are a bit mushier, but overall I didn’t find the substitution excessively damaging. The jamón crisps up like bacon, making a fresh and crunchy warm pintxo (tapa).
Euskadi Jamón and Artichoke Hearts
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
4-5 thin slices jamón serrano (or Parma ham)
2 tbsps olive oil
Heat olive oil, and toss in the jamón (rip it into strips with your fingers). When it has begun to get crispy add the drained artichoke hearts and sauté until slightly brown and heated through. Serve with freshly torn baguette.