Anyone who knows me well knows that my favorite spring vegetable, hands down, is the artichoke. I enjoy eating artichokes just about any way you can prepare them from frying, braising, boiling, and roasting. Here in Umbria, artichoke season is in full swing, so we have a selection of different varieties of artichokes available. As long as they are very fresh, I’ll be happy with any type of artichoke, but baby artichokes are much easier to clean as they haven’t started growing the furry choke inside, and all but the outer most leaves are tender.
When choosing artichokes at the market, select ones that feel heavy and solid; lighter ones are older. The leaves should be thick, tightly closed and vibrant deep green or purple color, and when rubbed together, the leaves should squeak. Avoid older artichokes that have opened, or have dry or split leaves. Usually, the smaller the artichoke, the more tender and sweet it will be. You can also buy baby artichokes which are tender, sweet and are easier to prep than the full-size ones. Store the artichokes in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to a week. Cut a small slice off the stem and dip it into a cup of water for a few minutes before you refrigerate.
Some folks are intimidated when cleaning fresh artichokes, but once you do it once, you learn very quickly how much of the artichoke needs to be cut away to expose the tender inner leaves. I created a post on How To Clean An Artichoke to help. For a novice, I’d suggest looking for the smaller artichokes to learn on as they will not require as much cleaning. All artichokes oxidize quickly once cut and will turn brown, so have a bowl of lemon water ready as you clean them.
I think I have prepared artichokes every possible way except roasting them, and when I stopped off at our local grocery store on the way home from our Emilia Romagna vacation and found baby artichokes, I knew that I had to roast them. Roasting any vegetable caramelizes the natural sugars giving them an earthy sweetness, and artichokes are no different. Roasting not only brings out a subtle sweetness, but it also enhances the artichoke flavor. I paired my roasted artichokes with a lemon and black pepper dipping sauce just to add an additional flavor, and the sauce was delicious with my chokes. You can, however, keep it simple, and only serve these delicious chokes with some fresh lemon wedges. These artichokes would be a tasty addition to any spring menu, whether as an appetizer or vegetable side. I prefer to serve this dish at room temperature so you can enjoy the full flavor of the artichokes.
Deborah Mele 2019
- 6 Cups Cold Water
- 2 Lemons Cut Into Quarters
- 12 Baby Artichokes
- 5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Sea Salt & Pepper
For The Dipping Sauce:
- 1/2 Cup Mayonnaise (I Prefer Olive Oil Based Varieties)
- Zest From 1 Lemon
- 2 Teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Place the water in a large bowl and squeeze the lemon edges into it.
- Drop the lemon wedges into the bowl.
- Cut off the stems of the chokes, leaving 1/2 to 1-inch if very fresh.
- Remove bottom leaves, leaving just the tender inner leaves.
- Cut each baby artichoke in half, and drop into the lemon water.
- Continue to clean all the artichokes in the same fashion.
- Once you have finished cleaning all of the chokes, drain them and pat dry with kitchen towels.
- Place the chokes in a bowl along with the oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat.
- Spread the chokes across a oil lined baking sheet and roast 8 minutes.
- Turn the chokes over and continue to roast until fork tender, about another 7 minutes.
- While the chokes are roasting, whisk together the dipping sauce ingredients and place in a small bowl, then refrigerate until needed.
- Cool the chokes to room temperature, then place on a platter or plate along with the dipping sauce and serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 6 pieces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 576 Total Fat: 42g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 34g Cholesterol: 12mg Sodium: 480mg Carbohydrates: 49g Fiber: 22g Sugar: 5g Protein: 11g