Roman artichokes

This is the best time of the year for eating the Roman artichokes that we call  carciofi romaneschi. This is a local quality that grows  in the Roman countryside and all the Lazio region.  From february to the end of april the artichoke fairs flourish in all the area.

Just take a stroll in one of the many city markets to see artichoke bunches abounding on the  stalls.

They are  round, fleshy, tender, perfect for being stuffed and little goes wasted.

In Rome they are a typical side dish on the menu of most restaurants. In most places they’re served  alla romana which is in the Roman manner: stewed in a pan with olive oil, some white wine and water,  and stuffed with  garlic, mentuccia romana (a wild  mint growing in the fields) salt and  pepper.

In the area of the Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere you can find  the artichokes cooked alla giudia (Jewish style): they’re fried  in a large pan full of olive oil, the artichokes must be covered  completely in oil. They’re delicious! Crispy on the outside but with a soft core…

Watch this  link from Giggetto a  good traditional restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto area:

http://www.carciofoallagiudia.com/eng/homeeng.htm

These romanesque artichokes are also very good if  served fritti: cut in slices, first dipped in  beaten egg, then rolled in flour and fried in olive oil. Some people simply fry them with a flour and water batter, other simply roll them in the flour and fry them.

I normally prepare artichokes stewed alla romana and simply stuff them with some pepper, salt, parsley or wild mint if I have it and olive oil. My mother used to stuff them in several ways, such as breadcrumbs and anchovies, or simply by filling their core with a big  Parmesan chunk, pepper, salt and oil.

I cook them using a pressure cooker because they can cook with very little water and  oil and they’re very tender. In a traditional pan it will take longer.

Another favourite plate with artichokes is the frittata: not strictly an omelette,  the Italian frittata is more like a thick tortilla. An omelette is normally like a wrap stuffed with different things, the frittata instead is made by beating the eggs in a bowl and pour inside the vegetables or other ingredients required  and them cook them in a frying pan. Before pouring the artichokes in the bowl with the  beaten eggs I cook them in a frying pan in thin slices with some oil and a little water until soft.

frittata with artichokes; photo taken from http://www.ricettariocucina.com

The most important thing to prepare all these  good artichoke recipes is to clean them well before cooking: first you’ll have to remove all the dark and hard outer leaves, and then cut the top  with a sharp knife like you were shaping them into a rosebud. Cut the stem a little if you like and peel it too. Once you’ve trimmed them put them in a bowl with water and some lemon juice to prevent oxidation and  your artichokes from turning brown .

By cleaning them in this way you can eat everything once ready.

Here is as should they look after trimming them:

my peeled artichokes

Another recipe I recommend if your artichokes are really nice and fresh is an healthy artichoke salad: after cleaning the artichokes and putting them in acidulated water  I take a very sharp knife and I slice them really thin, then put them on a large dish, spray with Parmesan flakes and dress with olive oil, ground pepper and lemon juice. Make the salad a couple of hours before so the the artichokes  can absorb the dressing.

One more curiosity: the  name of this vegetable has nothing to do with the verb “to choke” despite it was widely believed  that some of the sharp leaves with thorns could be dangerous for choking. The name comes originally from the Arabic  al-ḫaršuf , which then passed into the Spanish and became alcarchofa.  Italians adopted the word and transformed it into articiocco which is also the source for the English term.

Alessandra