Thursday, June 9, 2011

carciofi alla romana

carciofi alla romana

Who was the first brave soul to tackle an artichoke? I ponder this every time nowadays, when I find myself trimming, pulling, and scraping the prickly vegetable. And while I might never find out the daring gourmand who is responsible for this bounty, I am certainly grateful – artichokes are delicious and are totally worth the trouble they give.

I’m a fairly new to making artichokes at home. Like many of you out there, I suspect, I’ve always been intimidated by them. I’d be at the grocery store, holding them in my hand, and then I’d place them back – they didn’t seem all that friendly and looked like a lot of work. Sometimes, when I wasn’t careful, I’d accidentally hook the tip of my finger on one of the sharp leaves. Once or twice, my fingers bled. How many vegetables can you say are actively out to get you? Artichokes were clearly sending a message – do not eat me.

carciofi alla romana

But along came the wonderful Melissa Clark of the New York Times and Gilt Taste fame (who’s graciously allowed me to help out here and there), and showed us all in a must-see video (which I got to watch while it was taping) on how to clean, trim, wrangle, and even cook the pesky choke. And suddenly the clouds parted, the angel voices sung, and it became oh-so-clear to me that I’ve been missing out on years of delicious artichoke consumption at home. Needless to say that for the next few weeks artichokes were ever-present at our dinner table in various variations.

carciofi alla romana

But my favorite artichoke dish is also one of the simplest – carciofi alla Romana – otherwise known as artichokes braised in wine and olive oil.* To prepare it, the artichokes are trimmed, cleaned, relieved of the choke, and stuffed with an herb-oil mixture, before the vegetables are then gently braised in white wine and olive oil. I try to get it whenever I see it on the menu. Recently, I’ve become quite fond of the version made by Broken English, a nearby restaurant in Cobble Hill.

For my version, I decided to brighten up the herb mixture with a spoon of lemon zest, and swap in a crisp and fragrant rose in lieu of the usual dry white wine. I placed the prepared artichokes in the pot, making sure they were nice and snug in there, added my liquids, covered the pot, and then waited a seemingly endless hour.

carciofi alla romana

When the artichokes finally emerged from their luxurious bath, they were transformed – more olive in color and all softened-up, they slumped pleasantly on a plate as if they were finally wearied by the heat and succumbed to its powers. I couldn’t resist a delicate drizzle of olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice before devouring my portion – the artichoke’s sweetness was bolder and brighter this way.

carciofi alla romana

A few extra minutes of effort and a little bit of patience – all worth it in the end. Artichokes may seem unapproachable at first, but it’s all a show – what they really want is a place alongside other vegetables, despite their spiky appearance.

* As Luisa correctly pointed out (thank you!) and what I meant to say – the preparation method hails from the Rome, not that it’s from ancient Rome, per se. Thanks, Luisa!

Carciofi Alla Romana

It’s rather intimidating trimming artichokes for the first time, which is why I think that the video I recommend above is a must-see. Melissa puts all your anxieties to rest with a simple, how-to instruction. Keep in mind that you must work quickly and dip your artichoke in the acidulated water as you are trimming – it shows discoloration in no time. But in the end, the whole mess winds up in the pot and turns olive-green, so don’t worry too much about it upon your first time. Lastly, remember when cleaning the choke, if you stick your finger inside the artichoke to feel if any choke is left, feel for the fuzzy stuff – if you feel it, you still have some work to do. Otherwise, your artichoke has been properly cleaned. In case you don’t watch the video, Melissa recommends a grapefruit spoon to get rid of the choke and I find that it works miracles!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 artichokes
1/3 cup dry white or rose wine
1/2 cup boiling water
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preparation:

1. In a small bowl, combine the parsley, mint, garlic, zest salt, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon. Remove the outer leaves of the artichoke and trim the tip so that you could see the center. Pull out the purple leaves and scrape out the choke with a spoon. While trimming the artichoke, dip it in the acidulated water to keep the artichoke from discoloration. When done trimming place in the acidulated water.

3. In the cavity of the artichoke from which the choke was removed, place some of the herb mixture – evenly dividing it among the artichokes. Place the artichokes fitted snugly (i.e. they won’t fall over) in a deep pan. Add the wine, boiling water, remaining oil and a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer on the stovetop for 1 hour. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 2 to 4.

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17 Comments

  • 1
    Luisa said:

    Alla Romana just means the method of prep is from the city of Rome, not ancient Rome. ;)

    June 9, 2011 10:14 am
  • 2
    Whitney said:

    Timely post! I just went to Rome and loved the artichokes and now I know how to make them! YUM.

    June 9, 2011 10:20 am
  • 3
    Radish said:

    Luisa – that’s what I meant. Sorry, did it come across as ancient Rome?? I will fix. Thank you for pointing that out! :)

    June 9, 2011 10:26 am
  • 4

    I have to confess I have never made artichokes at home- not so much out of intimidation, but because of how darn expensive they are and the fact that they always look kind of tired and old, the heads never tight as they should be, the leaves sad and dried-out looking. The day I see some worthy artichokes, I’ll splurge and give this a go!

    June 9, 2011 10:30 am
  • 5
    Christine said:

    It’s funny I was in Rome at the end of the season and since it was Sunday we opted to eat in the Jewish Quarter…I ordered the artichokes alla Romana, but was swayed to get an order alla giudia (Jewish style) too. They were deep fried and the leaves were like potato chips. While the braised are still my favorite, it was nice to try artichokes another way.

    June 9, 2011 10:38 am
  • 6
    Radish said:

    Christine – Love the giudia ones too! I can’t decide which of those two is my favorite. But they are both delicious!

    June 9, 2011 10:47 am
  • 7

    i just cooked artichokes at home for the first time last week! i was definitely intimidated, but you’re right… it is SO worth the effort. can’t wait to try this recipe!

    June 9, 2011 11:01 am
  • 8
    KATE said:

    THese look amazing I love fresh artichokes!

    June 9, 2011 12:33 pm
  • 9
    jenna said:

    these look great and don’t look as hard to prepare as I thought.

    June 9, 2011 12:37 pm
  • 10
    kankana said:

    I was intimidated by Artichoke too and very recently came out of it. Turns out they are nice and soft after a nice hot bath :) These looks lovely and perfectly cooked.

    June 9, 2011 12:49 pm
  • 11
    Juanita said:

    I wish I could find fresh artichokes! Tinned ones don’t seem right…

    June 10, 2011 11:00 am
  • 12
    Sorrel Barnard said:

    Hi Olga,

    So nice to meet you this morning at Paper Source. I’ve only had a chance to take a quick peak at your site thus far, but I’ve bookmarked it and I’ll be sure to include it in my list of reads. The artichokes and the cucumber cooler look like fun recipes to try!

    Thanks,
    Sorrel

    June 11, 2011 2:48 pm
  • 13
    Radish said:

    Hi Sorrel – lovely to meet you as well :) And thanks for coming by to check out the blog! Hope you found some excellent things at Paper Source! I walked out with 4 cards – score!

    June 11, 2011 5:51 pm
  • 14

    love these artichoke photos, Olga

    June 13, 2011 12:00 am
  • 15
    Radish said:

    Justin – thanks!! :) daylight does wonders, right?

    June 13, 2011 8:00 am
  • 16
    Gabbie said:

    I’ve never cooked artichokes before and your instructions and recipe were phenomenal, and thank you for the video too!!

    March 13, 2012 2:05 pm
  • 17
    hope said:

    great post + recipe having just returned from Rome! Brava!

    April 5, 2012 7:39 am

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