Artichokes are one of Jessie Aron's favorite vegetables, unleashing fond memories of her father, who passed away when she was 15.

Image: Michael Novak

There’s no such thing as a simple recipe at Malka. Jessie Aron and Colin McArthur opened the house-turned-restaurant last year on Division, fully embracing whimsical maximalism, décor to dishes. When I asked Aron for a recipe that featured local vegetables, like Malka’s famed crispy-rice Bellflower salad, she warned me it would likely take up the magazine’s entire food section. Her most intensive recipe, the non-sensical, surreally named OVNIs (Objecto Volante No Identificado) is an eggplant–butternut squash sandwich with herbed whipped feta, tomato achaar, and pesto that involves well over 100 ingredients—closer to 200, Aron confesses. As the menu says: “This is a sandwich with a lot going on, so bear with me.” 

By comparison, Aron’s pan-roasted artichokes, which appear seasonally on the menu under the name Montgomery Park, exercise relative restraint. Artichokes are one of her favorite vegetables, unleashing fond memories of her father, who passed away when she was 15. When she was young, he grew artichokes in their apartment garden near Montgomery Park. “I grew up eating artichokes with my dad,” says Aron. “We would just dip them in butter, and squeeze lemon over the top. And that has happy memories for me.”

Turns out, her father may have been the source of her wacky ingredient combos. 

“He was a terrible cook—like, really bad. But in his head, he just liked everything, and he liked everything together. He didn’t understand that some foods didn’t go with other foods. He was just putting all kinds of wild stuff together all the time, like Boboli pizza with peanut butter and raw beets and almonds, and it was disgusting. But he thought it was great, and he loved it. He raised me. So, maybe I learned from an early age that anything can go with anything—or lots of things can go together.”

Malka’s Pan-Roasted Artichokes with Walnut-Chile-Coffee Mayo, Aged Cheddar & Lemon

  • 4 large artichokes 
  • 2 lemons, one cut in half, the other cut into wedges
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Splash of olive oil

Walnut-Chile-Coffee Mayo 

  • 1 cup raw walnuts 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 oz chile puya or favorite hot dried chiles, stems removed (seeds are OK) 
  • 2 cups mayo
  • 1 tbsp vinegar-based hot sauce (like Frank’s, Crystal, or Trappey’s) 
  • 1 medium clove garlic, peeled 
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard 
  • 1½ tsp instant espresso powder 
  • 1 tbsp molasses or brown sugar 
  • 1 tsp soy sauce 
  • 1 handful of rough-picked parsley leaves

Garnish

  • 2 oz aged white cheddar, finely grated

1. Remove tough, thorny outer leaves of
artichokes, then trim off the top of the stem. Rub a little lemon juice on top to prevent oxidation on the cut parts. Bring a pot of salted water (as salty as pasta water) to a boil. Halve one lemon and throw a half in the pot. Save the rest for later.

2. Boil artichokes about 12 minutes, or until stems are tender and outer leaves come away easily. Set aside to cool.

3. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

4. Toss walnuts with 2 tbsp of the olive oil, and season generously with salt.

5. Spread walnuts onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast in oven 10–15 minutes or until nuts turn a shade darker golden and smell toasty.

6. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add dried chiles. Toast over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 1 minute or until the oil is red and chiles start to smell toasted. Set aside.

7. Make your mayo: In a blender, combine mayo, toasted walnuts, toasted chiles, hot sauce, garlic, lime juice, mustard, espresso powder, molasses or brown sugar, soy sauce, and parsley. Taste and add more kosher salt and lime juice if desired.

8. Prep your artichokes for pan-roasting: cut in half lengthwise and scrape out (and discard) the thistle (the fine fibers and tiny, sharp leaves inside the cavity).

9. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan such as a cast-iron skillet or flat-bottomed nonstick pan. Alternatively, prepare a grill for the artichokes.

10. Add a splash of olive oil to the hot surface and cook artichokes cut side down for a few minutes, or until heated all the way through with a nice, golden sear. 

11. Squeeze remaining half lemon on top of artichokes. 

12. Sprinkle grated cheddar over the artichokes (especially in the heart cavity). Serve with mayo and lemon wedges on
the side.

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