In New York where I grew up, artichokes were considered exotic; only very high-end green grocers carried them. When I moved to California, this thorny member of the thistle family was everywhere, prepared and presented in many different ways. When I had my first taste, it was love at first bite.
I embarked on a quest for artichoke recipes and found they included everything from salads and soups to main courses. My favorites are the dishes stemming from Italian Jewish cuisine — the most notable and delicious being Carciofi alla Giudia — artichokes made since medieval days in Rome’s Jewish quarter. Artichoke hearts or baby artichokes are trimmed and deep-fried until they open and the leaves turn black, giving the appearance of beautiful black flowers.
The preparation of artichokes may seem daunting, but it’s worth the task. For whole artichokes:
With a sharp knife, cut off stem. Pick off the coarse outer leaves. Cut off the thorny tips of remaining leaves with kitchen scissor. Cook in boiling water to which some lemon juice has been added or roast in 350-degree oven. Artichokes are done when leaves can be easily pulled off.
For hearts or baby artichokes:
Remove and discard the outer leaves until a central core of pale green leaves is reached. Cut off stem and thorny tip of the heart. Cut in half length-wise and remove the choke (fuzzy center). Cook as above, or proceed according to recipes.
Carciofi alla Giudia
4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 sprig rosemary
16 baby artichokes, trimmed
salt and pepper
1 lemon cut into wedges
In a deep saucepan, heat the oil with the garlic and rosemary. Add the artichokes in one or two batches and fry 10 to 15 minutes or until dark brown. Drain the artichokes on paper towels. Gently flatten the leaves of the artichokes to make them look like open flowers. Season with salt and pepper and serve with lemon wedges.
Artichokes With Mustard Sauce
3⁄4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1⁄4 cup sweet-hot mustard
2 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
6 cooked whole artichokes at room temperature or chilled
Combine first four ingredients. Serve as a dip for artichoke leaves.
Artichoke Soup With Tarragon
4–5 cups chicken stock
11⁄2 pounds artichoke hearts, trimmed and halved
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and chopped
1 small potato, peeled and sliced
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. fresh tarragon leaves
salt and pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Add the artichoke hearts, onion and potato. Cook covered, 20 minutes. In a food processor, puree the mixture until smooth. If soup is too thick, add more stock or water. Stir in lemon juice and tarragon. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.
Artichoke, Fennel and Parmesan Salad
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 baby artichokes (about 1 lb.), trimmed and cooked
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 oz. shaved Parmesan
Whisk oil and juice in medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Slice artichokes lengthwise very thinly and toss into dressing. Mix in fennel and remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and top with additional cheese if desired.
Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to email@example.com.