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Frozen artichoke hearts (Recipe: vegetable paella with spicy garlic sauce)

While working on a new recipe index, I began revisiting some posts from the early days of The Perfect Pantry. Here's a recipe we love to cook outside over the fire pit (with s'mores for dessert, because we have the fire going). Welcome to the end of Oldies Week.


I love artichokes, and there's nothing more sensuous than pulling off a leaf, dunking it in melted butter, and sucking the tender part between your teeth. When I'm planning a veggie paella or pasta dish, however, I'd rather put that energy into the cooking, and that's why frozen artichoke hearts have a place in The Perfect Pantry.

There's a lot of mythology surrounding artichokes. According to an Aegean legend, the first artichoke goddess was a woman named Cynara, who so enraged the god Poseidon that he turned her into a thistle. And the first Artichoke Queen? Marilyn Monroe, crowned in 1947 in Castroville, California, the heart of America's artichoke industry.

Clarence Birdseye gets the credit for inventing the processes that led to what we now call "flash freezing", and Birds Eye Foods still dominates the frozen vegetable market. I've never been a huge fan of frozen vegetables, but technology has made it possible for foods to be flash frozen, or IQF (individually quick frozen), so that their peak flavor is preserved. In addition to artichoke hearts, I've started to keep frozen pearl onions on hand; they're peeled and ready to go directly from the freezer into Ted's favorite beef stew.

Most often, frozen artichoke hearts find their way into my new favorite vegetable paella recipe.

Vegetable paella with spicy garlic sauce

One of my ta-dah entertaining dishes, this recipe, adapted from Paella! by Penelope Casas, serves 6-8. The accompanying garlic sauce provides an amazing kick.


For the spicy garlic sauce:
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tsp finely chopped fresh hot red or green pepper (jalapeño is fine)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4 tsp dried
4 Tbsp minced parsley
1/2 cup olive oil

For the paella:
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups well washed, dried, and coarsely chopped spinach leaves
2 medium red bell peppers, finely chopped
4 tsp finely chopped fresh hot red or green pepper (jalapeño is fine)
6 frozen artichoke hearts, quartered
6 large shiitake or other mushrooms (1/2 lb), stems removed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
8 medium scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
6 cups chicken broth, low-sodium canned or homemade, or vegetable broth
1/4 tsp crumbled thread saffron
8 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium tomato, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sweet pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp minced parsley
3 cups imported Spanish (Bomba or Valencia) or Arborio short-grain rice
Kosher or sea salt
1/2 lb snap peas or snow peas, strings removed
1 roasted red pepper, sliced lengthwise, for garnish (optional)


Make the sauce: Mash to a paste in a mortar or miniprocessor the sweet and hot peppers, cumin, salt, garlic, thyme, oregano, and 2 Tbsp of parsley. Stir in the oil and remaining parsley. Transfer to a serving bowl. (This will keep up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.)

Combine in a large bowl the zucchini, spinach, sweet and hot peppers, artichokes, mushrooms, peas and scallions. Combine the broth and saffron in a pot and keep hot over the lowest heat.

Preheat the oven to 400°F for gas oven, 450° for electric.

Heat the oil in a paella pan measuring 17-18 inches at its widest point (or in a shallow casserole of a similar size), over two burners if necessary. Add the vegetables from the bowl and sauté about 3 minutes over high heat, until the vegetables are slightly softened. Stir in the tomato, garlic, paprika, cumin and parsley, and cook 2 minutes more. Add the rice and coat well with the pan mixture.

Pour in all the hot broth and bring to a boil. Taste for salt and continue to boil about 5 minutes, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until the rice is no longer soupy but sufficient liquid remains to continue cooking the rice. Stir in the snap peas, arrange the roasted red pepper slices decoratively on the top (a "spokes of the wheel" arrangement is traditional), and transfer to the oven. Cook, uncovered, 10-13 minutes in a gas oven, 15-20 minutes electric, until the rice is almost al dente. Remove to a warm spot, cover with foil, and let sit 5-10 minutes, until the rice is cooked to taste. Pass the garlic sauce separately.

[Printer-friendly recipes.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Paella a la Valenciana
Chicken paella with slow-roasted tomatoes

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Lydia, I wish we could find frozen artichoke heart here!

I just went through your paella recipe. All I can say is this must be totally delicious!

Hi Lydia, I love artichokes and yet, have never had the frozen brand. Canned, yes, the chokes get some stuffing and I also love the marinated jarred brand. So, now you've got me trying the frozen...

I also wanted to share with you that I finally made it to Sid Wainers yesterday! I got to taste my way through lunch! What a nice place to visit and lose your $$$ at the same time, lol. I ended up buying some black Beluga lentils, kalamata bread, loose arugula & beet tops, pate', kosher sea salt that was fine, and, talked about you as well! A woman named Joyce said to say hello. I am going to get back there on the Saturday to have that nice experience of the cooking. Thanks for mentioning it! I was at a wedding at bel Mer in Newport and when I saw the Sid Wainer truck and I instantly knew we were in for a food-extravaganza, and oh boy were we ever!

Ciao for now...thanks again.

I can only get tinned here as well.

Your recipe sounds so good :)

Around here we dip artichoke leaves in flavored mayonnaise or aioli instead of butter, but as a kid it was my favorite green veggie.

I don't know if I can get frozen artichoke hearts here, but I'll keep an eye out for them

I need to try these. I don't think I've had the frozen ones, and I bet they're better than canned. I've had paella on my list of things to make for the longest time!

Yum! I love frozen artichoke hearts! They have all the convenience of the tinned variety without the tinned flavor.

Although the marinated ones are great right out of the jar. ;-)

I never even knew they came frozen! I don't care much for the canned ones and it is rare to find them in jars with out being marinated.

Paella, cooked over a fire pit, as it was intended to be... how fun! And it sounds excellent!
The last time I had paella was for dinner - at about 1:30 in the morning, in Barcelona..
No s'mores, though...

Oh wow I had no idea there were frozen hearts, I've only seen the canned kind. I'll have to keep an eye out in my grocer's freezer!

I totally agree with you about frozen artichokes. I do prepare the fresh ones, but there are too many times when I don't feel motivated to clean 3 or 4 artichokes to get the hearts for a recipe.

I love fresh artichokes. Nothing better than cooking and then eating the leaf bottoms dipped in shoyu and mayonnaise. Then finally cutting up the hearts and eating them also!

Anh, this is a wonderful recipe -- with or without artichokes. Substitute green beans, or another vegetable, or just leave them out. But don't skip the garlic sauce.

Pam, marinated artichokes are great -- but not in this dish, or they will overwhelm the rest of the flavors. Glad you made it to Sid's; I haven't made the drive to New Bedford in a while, but it's a wonderful resource and worth the trip.

Kelly-Jane, Jerry, Kalyn: If you can't find the frozen, and don't want to bother with fresh, just make this dish without the artichokes, or add more of something else (green beans, mushrooms, snow peas, etc.). It's wonderfully flexible, as long as there's plenty of fresh garlic sauce!

Erika, I agree -- the ones in a tin always taste tinny to me, too.

Andy, the frozen ones are pretty easy to find in the grocery stores near me -- they will never be as good as fresh, but in this dish they are perfectly acceptable -- and so much easier to use.

Katie, the fire pit does add a bit more smoky quality -- and it actually cooks pretty quickly on the fire, much easier than a paella with chicken. Paella in Barcelona at any time sounds pretty good to me.

Amy, definitely look for these. The tinned ones always taste a bit chalky to me, so I've stopped buying them. If you can't find good frozen ones and don't want to bother with fresh, just leave them out of this dish.

Sher, I only bother with fresh artichokes when I'm going to eat them leaf by leaf. Otherwise, I let someone else do the work!

Nate, I've honestly never tried them with shoyu and mayo, though it does sound delicious. Next time...

I never tried handling or cooking with fresh artichokes. I think frozen ones will be a good start for me :D

Tigerfish, the frozen ones are very easy -- not quite the same taste, but they are great in this dish. I hope you'll try it.

Ugh, if only my husband would eat veggies...this sounds so good.

Peabody, you can take out some of the veggies in this recipe and substitute chicken, or seafood and shellfish -- the combination of herbs and spices really is the best part. Oh, and the garlic sauce!

I too would rather use frozen in cooked dishes! It's so time consuming to clean, cook and peel that I would rather slowly savor each leaf.

SK, there is nothing better than a fresh artichoke, eaten leaf by leaf dipped in melted butter. But when they're going to be cooked anyway, I'd rather let someone else do the prep!

This sounds perfect for me, can't get frozen artichokes here but will take your advice above and try some other vegetables. I think I'm going to make it just for the garlic sauce!

I've seen that Bird's eye brand at a ton of grocery stores - would you say they're a good brand for all of their vegetables?

Thanks for the vegetable paella recipe! I happen to love paella but can't always have the seafood in it!

Laura, the garlic sauce is fabulous -- you can substitute anything for the artichoke hearts, or even use fresh ones. Enjoy!

Hillary, I think Birds Eye has the widest range of frozen veggies, because they invented the technology. The only frozen things I use are artichoke hearts, pearl onions, and occasionally peas. This is a great paella because it's totally vegetarian, and I often make it to "wow" my less carnivorous friends.

I don't think I've ever seen frozen artichokes, but I can't say I've gone looking for them either, maybe I should!

Brilynn, frozen are so much better than canned, if you're inclined to use either. They are perfect in this recipe.

I've never had the Birdseye, but I eat the Trader Joe's Frozen Artichoke Hearts like candy! I sprinkle a little sea salt on them, zap em, and eat 'em! The BEST! (And only 25 calories per serving!)

Ellie, hooray for TJ's once again -- aren't they terrific? We're getting our first one in Rhode Island in October.

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