I love Italy in the spring when market stalls are piled high with varieties of local artichokes, agretti, fava beans, baby peas, and pencil thin asparagus spears. Artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables and I probably could eat them daily and never tire of them. Since the fresh artichoke season is fairly short, I tend to overindulge when I can, and have actually been known to eat them daily and only take a break when my husband starts complaining.
Rome is famous for its artichokes, and if visiting Rome in the spring when local artichokes are sold, you absolutely have to try them. The two most popular presentations are Carciofi alla Romana (braised whole artichokes), or Carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish style fried artichokes).
Although I love artichokes prepared in just about any manner, when artichokes are in season, I prepare Carciofi alla Romana at least once a week. They are very easy to prepare and cook, and are meltingly tender when done. The variety used to make these two traditional artichoke dishes are the Romaneschi, Cimaroli, or Mammole varieties. These are the larger, round artichokes, that do not have a heavy spiky inner choke, or the spiked leaves of the pointed varieties.
Carciofi alla Romana involves trimming the stems, and outer leavers, and gently scooping out any furry choke. The artichoke is then stuffed with a mixture of garlic, parsley, and mint, and is braised in a pan whole with stalks pointing up, in an olive oil and white wine mixture.
These tender chokes can be found on restaurant menus across Italy in the spring, and are often served warm, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. When preparing artichokes of any variety, it is necessary to drop them into an acidic water bath as you clean them to prevent them turning brown.
- 2 Medium Lemons, Reserving 1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
- 4 Large or 6 Medium Artichokes
- 1/4 Cup Flat Leaf Fresh Parsley Leaves
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Mint Leaves
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Finely Minced
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil Plus Extra For Serving
- 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
- Fill a bowl with water and squeeze the juice of both lemons into it.
- Using a sharp knife, cut off the tops of the artichokes, then trim off the outer tough leaves to expose the inner tender ones.
- Trim the stem and bottom of the choke, and after spreading the inner leaves, use a small spoon to scoop out the furry inner choke.
- Drop the prepared chokes into the acid water and continue to clean the rest.
- In a small bowl, mix together the lemon zest, parsley, mint, and garlic.
- Season herb mixture with some salt and pepper.
- Rub each artichoke with the herb mixture, pushing it into between the leaves.
- Add the olive oil and wine to a pan large enough the hold all of the artichokes side by side so that they can stand with stems pointing up.
- Arrange the artichokes in the pan and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover with a lid, and cook until the artichokes are tender with pierced with the tip of a knife.
- Remove the chokes to a platter and spoon any remaining cooking liquids on top.
- Add an additional drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and then serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 choke
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 295Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 188mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 12gSugar: 3gProtein: 6g