Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Carciofi alla protestanta

There's a fantastic deep-fried artichoke dish called carciofi alla giudea, which is all over the place in the Jewish Ghetto neighborhood of Rome. I could eat this every day, but I have small children who like to cannonball into my ass while I am doing tricky things at the stove, so deep-frying is pretty much out.

I discovered a recipe by Pino Luongo that involved trimming medium-size artichokes, boiling them in a mix of oil and water, then drizzling them with oil and roasting them. This was great except that scraping the chokes out of full-size artichokes is a bore. Plus it leaves little frizzy bits of choke all over your kitchen. So I developed a variation of this, which I'm calling carciofi alla protestanta even though you don't have to have the Protestant work ethic to make them. Here's how:

Background: Buy a packet of BABY artichokes, and make sure you have olive oil (cooking oil, not the nice kind you save for salads) and lemons at home. Squeeze a couple lemons into a large bowl and add a few cups of water. Take a heavy pot, add 2 c water and 2 c olive oil, and set this to boil. Slosh a couple tablespoons of oil onto a cookie sheet and set the oven at 375.

Preparation: Strip off 3-4 layers of the artichokes' outer leaves, until you get down to the leaves that are pale green and tender-looking. Trim the stem and the top of each artichoke (so you don't get pointy bits stuck in your soft palate) and drop it into the lemon water.

Cooking: Simmer the artichokes in the oil-water mixture for about 15 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon. Put them leaves-down on the cookie sheet and flatten them slightly so the leaves flare out like a flower. (Most of them will end up slightly mangled. Fear not. They will taste just as good as the pretty ones.) Drizzle a little more oil over the stem ends. Bake the artichokes until the leaves are golden brown and look crunchy; start checking after 10 minutes, though I find this often takes closer to 20.

Eating: They're hot! Don't burn your mouth! These taste great next to a plate of spaghetti tossed with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper. You may want to keep in mind that artichokes make wine taste like it contains Nutra-Sweet, so if you're drinking wine with this don't open anything you've been saving. Enjoy!

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