Thursday, June 26, 2008
I think artichokes are an interesting culinary wonder. I mean think about it...it has little prickers on the edges of the leaves and it has fuzzy, yet razor-like, "hair" protecting it's heart and in order to even get to that fuzzy spot you have an enormous amount of work to do. Not unlike a woman, perhaps?
So who was soooo hungry that he investigated eating this thing?
Today I had a wonderful salad that was chopped so perfectly and tossed with just the right amount of dressing. I was faced with many choices to put into the salad and one item I opted for was marinated artichoke hearts. I love them - they're perfectly tangy and have a great consistency.
The first time I had an artichoke I was 9 years old and I was in the Ritz, in Paris, with my grandparents. I don't remember too much of the trip or that dinner, but I do recall the leaves were perfectly dressed in lemon and oil and they were unbeliveably soft. I've never tried to steam an artichoke, actually, but I have now perfected the art of frying them - using only the very tiny baby artichokes. This is the recipe I've adopted from several sources. They are made famous by the Roman Jews and my husband and I (and now our families) find them outrageously delicious (and they're really, really, easy!).
This comes from a neat website I've found dedicated to artichokes: http://www.artichokes.org/
WHAT IS AN ARTICHOKE?
A native of the Mediterranean, the artichoke is a perennial in the thistle group of the sunflower (Compositae) family. In full growth, the plant spreads to cover an area about six feet in diameter and reaches a height of three to four feet. Its long, arching, deeply serrated leaves give the plant a fern-like appearance. The Green Globe cultivar accounts for essentially all the artichokes grown in this area.
The "vegetable" that we eat is actually the plant's flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. The size of the bud depends upon where it is located on the plant. The largest are "terminal" buds produced at the end of the long central stems. These are the ones you are most likely to see from the car during a springtime drive throughout the area. Buds are smaller lower on the stem.
Roman-Jewish Fried Baby Artichokes
2 pkgs. of baby artichokes (about 24)
36 oz. Canola Oil
24 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil + 3 tbsp.
2 lemons, cut in half
scant 1/4 cup minced parsley
Slice off 1/4 - 1/2 of the top of each artichoke and toss. Bend back dark green bottom, outer, layers of each artichoke until light green and soft leaves are revealed. Slice off 1/8 - 1/4 of the stem and trim off outer portion.
In a large frying pan - preferrably a Wok - combine both oils and heat on high until hot. Test heat by dripping water off your fingers and if it sizzles, it's hot.
Prepare a cooling rack with paper towels underneath to catch excess oil.
Drop artichokes stem-side up into the hot oil (about 4-5 at a time). They will instantly spread leaves. Use a wok-spoon (see photo) to push open the leaves even further. Allow to fry about 3-5 minutes or until well browned. Remove to cooling rack and allow oil to drip off. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
Place fried artichokes on serving platter and sprinkle all sides lightly with salt. Then squeeze lemon halves over all artichokes and finally sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot or room temperature.