Alphonse Mucha was a Czech painter and decorative artist. He became an overnight sensation on the 1st of January 1895 with his advertisement poster for a theatre play “ Gismonda” starring the internationally famous actress – Sarah Bernhardt. Mucha was filling in for a friend at the printing shop during Christmas when an urgent order for a new poster came from Bernhardt. All the artists were away on holidays so inexperienced Mucha grabbed the chance. The printer was shocked by the sight of Mucha’s revolutionary poster design, but when Sarah Bernhardt herself saw the poster she said to Alphonse: “Mister Mucha, you have made me immortal!”. On New Years Day the posters were hanging all over Paris and immediately became objects of desire to collectors and to fans of Bernhardt who stole them from the billboards.
His soft pastels paintings, posters and illustrations depicting young beautiful women in neoclassical robes, surrounded by flowers, fruit and other organic motifs, with curving lines, ornaments and Byzantine borders, were his signature style – Le Style Mucha, and later became Art Nouveau.
“The purpose of my work was never to destroy but always to create, to construct bridges, because we must live in the hope that humankind will draw together and that the better we understand each other the easier this will become.”
– Alphonse Mucha
Globe Artichokes and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
I chose “Dance” as an inspiration for my next dish. This stylish lithograph is a part of Mucha’s poster series “The Arts”. A young “goddess” is making a vigorous turn. Her auburn hair is flowing and so are her draperies. There seems to be a soft breeze blowing. The movement is delicate and swift. Butterflies, flowers, leaves floating in the air and the mysterious look in the woman’s eyes makes this work very romantic. Harmonious and dynamic composition with whiplash lines, soft curves and circular decorative backdrop motif give a sense of elegance. I wanted to bring that elegance and beauty into my dish.
Chinese chives flowers used here are purely for decorating purpose.
The Thai basil (horapha) is not a must in this recipe but the combination with roasted cherry tomatoes is heavenly. This basil is stronger than Italian basil, with anise/liquorice flavour and slightly spicy.
Traditionally Aioli is made of olive oil and garlic in a mortar and pestle. The name means literally “garlic and oil” in Catalan. Adding an egg yolk makes it much easier to emulsify. I wanted a softer version that’s why I used olive oil together with canola oil.
The smoked paprika powder gives it a unique smoky flavour and a beautiful warm colour.
Isn’t this gorgeous globe artichoke very Art Nouveau?
Artichoke’s Latin name is Cynara. The plant contains Cynarine, an acid which plays with your taste buds in such way that water you drink after eating artichokes tastes sweet. Artichoke is also the predominant flavour in the Italian liqueur Cynar.
I love slow-roasting because it brings a wonderful rich flavour to the tomatoes. You can roast as many tomatoes as you like actually. Place the leftovers in a closed container in the fridge and eat the next day on your sandwich, toast or with a salad. Roasted tomatoes go great with goat cheese, feta, avocado, eggs and much more.
- 2 globe artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 2 l of water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 5 bay leaves
- 1/5 tsp salt
For roasted cherry tomatoes
- 2 vines of cherry tomatoes (about 30 tomatoes), one whole and one cut in halves
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in halves
- 5 silverskin onions, cut in halves
- 10 thyme sprigs
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/8 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
- Italian basil
- Thai basil
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- fine watercress
- chives, finely chopped
Garlic chives flowers, or other small flowers for decoration
Preheat the oven to 120°C. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet together with garlic and silverskin onions. Drizzle generously with olive oil, top with thyme and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for about 2-3 hours until shrivelled but still moist, this depending on your oven and the size of the tomatoes. If you want it quicker bake the tomatoes on 180°C for about 20 minutes.
While the tomatoes have been baking for about 1,5 hour, prepare the artichokes. Cut off the stalk and snap off the small outer petals at the base, cut 2-3 cm off the top of the artichoke with a sharp knife, trim the remaining petals with scissors by cutting off the tips (some artichokes have thorns on the tops of the petals). Rub the cut areas with lemon wedges to prevent the artichokes from turning brown. Scoop the choke with a spoon after cooking the artichokes, while you are eating them. It goes much easier and is less messy than on raw artichoke.
Place the artichokes in a big pot with about 2 litres of boiling water (make sure the base of artichokes is submerged) with olive oil, white wine, bay leaves and salt (they add great flavour to the artichokes). Cover with a lid and simmer for about 30 minutes. Artichokes are ready when the outer petals can be easily pulled off or the centre feels tender when pierced with a skewer. Place the artichokes upside down in a drain to let the water leak out.
While the artichokes are cooking and the tomatoes are almost ready, prepare the aioli. Put the garlic and coarse salt in a mortar and grind slowly with the pestle till made into a paste. Add egg yolk and keep grinding until the egg turns lighter. Add half of the oil slowly pouring in a fine stream and keep stirring softly with the pestle. Once the first half of the oil is emulsified add the lemon juice and smoked paprika powder and keep blending the sauce. Now add the rest of the oil slowly, stirring constantly. Taste the sauce and eventually add more salt or lemon juice. If you find the sauce too thick add a little bit of warm water. Transfer into two small bowls for each plate of artichoke.
Place the hot artichokes on warm plates. Stuff the warm halves of cherry tomatoes in-between the petals. Sprinkle the artichokes with chives and nigella seeds. Arrange the whole tomatoes on the side of the artichokes together with watercress and basil. Break off the petals and dip them in the aioli sauce. When you reach the heart of the artichoke scoop the choke with a spoon and discard. Cut the heart into smaller bits and enjoy with roasted tomatoes, the greens and aioli.