It’s that time of the year: artichoke season! Suddenly, artichokes are everywhere in farmers’ markets, and even in supermarkets. Even Stanley Tucci is cooking with them. In a few weeks, just as suddenly as they have appeared, their short season will end. Of course, in supermarkets artichokes are imported from who-knows-where nearly year-round, but in Italy, where cooking is always local and seasonal, this wonderful vegetable comes to markets for only about four weeks and then disappears until the next year.
Now that artichoke season is just beginning, a wonderful thing to do, artichoke-wise, is to find baby artichokes, as I did this week at the Beverly Hills Farmers Market vendor – Roots Organic Farm. They are much easier to prepare than bigger ones because the choke has not yet fully developed; this makes them much easier to clean.
Growing up in New Jersey, we only ever ate artichokes the French way, with the thick leaves dipped in butter and then pulled between your teeth. I really had no idea that such a wealth of artichoke recipes existed until I started traveling to Italy: everything from wonderful appetizers to scrumptious desserts.
One of my fondest memories is attending the artichoke festival in Filletto, Italy a few years ago. At the sagra (food festival) near the town where we were staying, artichokes were prepared every imaginable way—breaded and fried; in tagliolini pasta; with gnocchi and clams; in a sort of lasagna; and a sweet artichoke tart, just to name a few. There was even a full page of artichoke poetry on every table (easier in a poetic language like Italian, perhaps!). My cousin’s wife Maria and a couple of her friends took us; after being directed to park in a field just outside town, we found ourselves in a huge tent packed with long tables crowded with families and friends happily eating artichoke dishes together and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Over the years, Michele and I have written many artichoke recipes. Here’s a roundup:
Artichoke are best prepared simply to let the subtle taste come through. Stuffed baby artichokes are found all over Italy but especially in Southern Italy. This is a great dish to prepare ahead of time and serve at room temperature.
So go out and buy some great in-season artichokes and have some fun getting the whole family involved to clean and prepare these little bundles of springtime!Print
- 10 or so baby artichokes (with stems attached if available)
- Lemon juice or white wine vinegar (approx. 1/2 cup)
- ½ cup dry plain or panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano
- 3 oil-packed anchovies, chopped into very small pieces to almost a paste
- One bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- Olive oil
- ½ cup dry white wine
Prepare the artichokes (see this post for an illustrated version):
- Prepare a large bowl with water and about half-a-cup of lemon juice or white wine vinegar. The water should taste lightly acidic.
- Remove the thick outer leaves of the artichokes until you reveal the pale yellow leaves.
- With a serrated knife, cut off the sharp tips of the artichokes (approx. ⅓ of the artichoke)
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the thick fibrous layer off the stems and then trim the very end of the stem with a sharp knife.
- Using the same sharp knife, the cut the artichokes in half length-wise from the very top down through the stem.
- Remove any chokes that might exist with a serrated grapefruit spoon or a melon baller.
- Place the prepared artichokes, as you go, into the acidified water to prevent browning.
Assemble the artichokes:
- Preheat oven to 400℉.
- In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, chopped anchovies, chopped parsley and minced garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper. Then add a little olive oil to create a loose moist mixture.
- Lay the prepared in artichokes in a baking dish or a sauté pan. Overlap the head of one artichoke with the stem of another.
- Carefully spoon ½ tbsp of the filling onto each artichoke. Drizzle all the artichokes with olive oil.
- Pour the white wine around the artichokes and cover the dish with foil or a lid.
- Bake for about 45 minutes. Removing the foil or lid and let cool.
- Serve warm or at room temperature; spoon any remaining juices over the artichokes.
Special equipment: serrated grapefruit spoon or melon baller