Baked Baby Artichokes

artichokesalforno

Carciofi al Forno ~ Tender, fresh, baby artichokes are delicious baked in the oven, and then topped with crisp, golden bread crumbs. Perfect on an antipasto platter, or as a vegetable side dish, you’ll want to make this recipe again and again. I love vegetables of all types, but if I had to choose my favorite, definitely the artichoke would be up there in the top three. Artichokes have an amazing complex flavor, different from any other vegetable. They are also relatives of the thistle, which isn’t surprising when you consider their appearance. The artichoke is native to North Africa and southern Europe and has been cultivated in Italy since Roman times. One has to wonder who the first person was who decided to try eating the “spring thistle” or artichoke.

In Italy there are three principal varieties of artichokes cultivated, which do not seem to resemble the larger, sturdy, commercial grown varieties we have available here in the States in any way. While living in Italy, one of my favorite memories of spring was being in Venice and tasting my first tiny, purple spring carciofi or artichoke. I believe I often schedule my return vacations in Italy in the spring just so I can savor these tender specialties again.

There are certain qualities you need to look for when buying artichokes though. Look for tight, compact leaves, no wrinkling, and few brownish blemishes. Choose smaller, rather than the larger artichokes (unless you are planning on stuffing them) and those that feel heavier in your hands rather than light. The smaller variety generally has more edible leaves, and less prickly chokes. It is said if you rub two artichokes together and they squeak, then they are fresh.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2011

Baked Baby Artichokes

Tender, fresh, baby artichokes are delicious baked in the oven, and then topped with crisp, golden bread crumbs.

Ingredients:

  • 12 to 16 Baby Artichokes
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Crushed

For The Topping:

  • 1 Cup Bread Crumbs (Preferably Homemade)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Additional Oil For Drizzling

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Clean the artichokes by peeling the stems, chopping off the top third, and peeling off the outer, tough leaves.
  3. Keep the prepared artichokes in a bowl of water with a little lemon added to prevent discoloration while you finish cleaning the rest.
  4. In a caserole dish large enough to hold all of the artichokes, add the artichokes, the garlic, olive oil and white wine.
  5. Add a little water if needed to bring the level up to almost cover the artichokes, cover, and then bake them in the preheated oven until they are tender.
  6. Usually this will take between 20 to 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the artichokes from the oven, and increase the temperature to 400 degrees F.
  8. Pour off any excess liquid from the cooked chokes, and set aside.
  9. Mix together the ingredients listed for the topping, and sprinkle this over the artichokes in the casserole dish.
  10. Drizzle on a little additional olive oil, and bake the archokes just until the topping becomes golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  11. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.