Last week I didn’t have time to properly cook some wonderful artichokes but this week was a different story. Since things slowed down ever so slightly and my Wednesday night soccer was rained out I was able to quickly throw together Carciofi alla Romana like in Elizabeth Minchilli’s Eating Rome.
As I was prepping the artichokes last night I thought about how intimidating they can appear to someone unfamiliar with them. You do a lot of work trimming for not a huge amount of artichoke. It wasn’t a long and ponderous thought though, since I was able to prep all of them pretty quickly and recognized that artichokes are just those things where your first attempt is always the toughest, every one after that is much easier. I then cooked and ate my artichokes.
Strangely coincidental, I saw a tweet this morning about an Epicurious article on trimming and cleaning artichokes. Of course, the author was complaining about the extreme difficulty of prepping artichokes. In the end he advocated using canned, jarred, or frozen artichoke hearts instead of going through all of the hassle. I know, I know, if you want to read and shake your head at it, here you go.
I’m not going to rant too much about this, I’ll just say: yeah things in the kitchen sometimes can and do take time to prep, get over it. I can’t even get on board with a usual ‘you know, I get what he’s saying…’ because I don’t. 10 minutes to prep and trim 1 artichoke? Bleeding from trimming? Please. I had all 4 of mine done in that time. No scars either. I know this will come off as snobbish but if you’re writing about food and home cooking, do us all a favor and practice your knife skills.
Back to the braised artichokes.
I took the herbal mix the Eating Rome recipe and pumped it up a little bit with a few extras like some pine nuts and cheese and chopped and minced everything together. I also braised the artichokes in some white wine because I intended on making a really nice sauce with some tarragon mustard, but I was so hungry by the time they were cooked I just ate. Something for next time I suppose!
Braised Artichokes Roman-style (Carciofi alla Romana) (4 servings)
- 4 artichokes, trimmed and cleaned
- 2 lemons
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ C Fresh mint
- 1 C parsley
- ¼ C Parmigianno reggiano cheese
- 2 tsp pine nuts
- Olive oil
- White wine
Fill a large bowl with water and the juice of one of the lemons. Cut the other lemon in half.
Prep your artichokes. Peel back and snap off the outer leaves at the base. Keep peeling leaves off until you get to leaves which are about half yellow and half purple. Cut the top of the artichoke off about halfway down the leaves. With a paring knife, cut off the stem and trim the base. Rub with lemon juice and place in the bowl to keep the artichokes from turning a nasty shade of brown as they oxidize. Spread open the leaves a little so some of the water gets inside. Repeat with the other artichokes.
Using the paring knife cut and scoop out the furry choke from the middle of the bottom. You’ll have to work your way down through the opening in the leaves. The younger your artichokes, the smaller the choke. Another reason why spring is a good time for these.
Place the cleaned out choke back in the acidulated water (the lemon water) and repeat with the others.
If you have a food processor pulse the parsley, mint, garlic, cheese, and pine nuts together. Drizle in some olive oil until you have a paste. Season with salt and pepper. If you don’t have a food processor just chop and mince everything together into a fine pile then make the paste.
Take a cleaned and trimmed artichoke out of the water. Spread the leaves back a little and work the paste in between finishing with a good dollop in the middle. Repeat for the other three.
Place artichokes in a pot large enough to hold them. Pour in some wine so that the artichokes are covered a little more than halfway up.
Place pot on stove top and bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes or until you can easily pull off one of the outer leaves.
Remove, drizzle with some olive oil and squeeze lemon over. Eat!