I carciofi brasati di Maria (Maria’s braised artichokes)

One of the true pleasures of being in Italy this past spring was the bounty of local seasonal vegetables. I remember fava beans, fresh peas, baby potatoes, arugula and so much more. But what I remember the most are baby artichokes, or carciofini. Tasting of pure springtime, there was no better side dish than these delicate purple wonders during the brief time they were in season. I remember my cousin’s wife Maria cooking and serving them. They were especially tender when braised and went great with the local Verdicchio dei castelli di Jesi, which is no small task when paring wine with artichokes.

At a recent Southern California farmers market I came across some baby artichokes, so I grabbed some right away. I WhatsApp’d Maria and she sent me her special family recipe. I cooked up these babies and sure enough, they tasted wonderful, reminiscent of Maria’s preparation.

In America, we generally have access to a very different type of artichoke than the ones available in Italy. In Castroville, California, the self-professed “Artichoke Capital of the World”, they grow globe artichokes: the giant artichokes available almost all year round in the United States; our general-purpose artichoke.

In Italy however, many regions feature artichokes bred to be best in each regional climate and soil, grown and sold locally. One artichoke cultivated in the province of Marche is a specialty in Filetto, Italy. It is an elongated variety with outside leaves more purple than green. Each spring they sponsors a massive artichoke festival or sagra (sagradelcarciofo.it) where all manner of artichoke dishes are served, including an artichoke dessert tart! Artichoke-lovers flock to the enormous tent where the magic happens—it is chock full of people, aromas, loud happy conversations, and artichokes, artichokes, artichokes!

Enjoy Maria’s recipe and when the season arrives, go find yourself some baby artichokes and try this dish.

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Maria’s braised artichokes


Ingredients

Scale
  • Approx. 3 dozen baby artichokes (look for ones that are elongated and pointy and not yet started to grow into a small globe)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Small bunch of marjoram
  • Small bunch of Italian parsley
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Cut the lemons in half. Into a medium sized bowl, juice the lemons and then add the lemon halves. Fill the bowl halfway with water.
  2. Snap off the thick fibrous outside leaves of the artichokes until you reach the pale yellow inner leaves. With a bread knife, cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke and trim the stems of any dried unattractive ends. Place in the lemon/water bath.
  3. In a medium pot, add the wine and olive oil. Peel the garlic clove with the wack of the side of a knife. Add the garlic to the pot.
  4. Cut off the parsley leaves and add to the pot. Strip off the marjoram leaves and add to the pot. Add a big pinch of salt (about 1 tbsp.).
  5. Left the trimmed artichoke hearts from the lemon/water bath and add to the pot. Add just enough water to cover. Artichokes float so watch as you add the water.
  6. Place the pot over high-heat with the lid one and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and place the lid ajar.
  7. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 1 hour). Add more water if the level drops too low. When done, the remaining liquid will be mostly olive oil.
  8. Discard the garlic clove. Serve the artichoke hearts hot or at room tempurate spooning the remaining liquid and some of the  herbs over the artichokes.

Notes

Special equipment:

  • Lemon juicer
  • Bread knife

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