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Provençal Artichoke Ragout
    Makes 6 servings
2 pounds small artichokes
1 lemon, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, such as vidalia or maui, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 large or 2 small red bell peppers, diced
  salt to taste
1 1/2 pounds (6 medium) tomatoes, or 1 28-ounce can, drained, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 cup water (more as needed)
  freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley

1. Fill a bowl with water and add the juice of half of the lemon. For globe artichokes: trim the stems off the artichokes and cut off the tops and stems with a sharp knife. Using a sharp knife, cut about one inch off across the top of the artichoke. Break off the bottom leaves by bending back until they snap off. Using kitchen scissors, snip off the spiny end of each remaining leaf. Rub the cut parts of the artichoke, and the surface where the leaves are broken off with the remaining lemon half. Quarter the artichokes, then cut away the spiny chokes using a paring knife. For baby artichokes: trim away the stems and cut about 1/2 inch off the top. Quarter the artichokes, then cut away the spiny chokes using a paring knife. Place in the bowl of acidulated water as you go along.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet or casserole over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the red pepper and about 1/4 teaspoon salt, and stir together for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the the pepper begins to soften. Add the garlic and stir together for another minute, until the garlic is fragrant and has colored slightly. Add the artichokes, tomatoes, more salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down a bit. Add the wine, if using, and water, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer 40 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender and the sauce fragrant. Check from time to time and add water if necessary. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Stir in the basil or parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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