Last week I bought some artichokes at the Farmer’s Market in Culver City to cook for a dinner party I was catering. They were perfect specimens: hard to the touch, “kissed” by frost (the brown spots on the leaves indicates they were exposed to frost, and that’s a good thing) and when I cut them I found very little “beard” (the inedible fuzzy hairs inside the leaves). I braised them, the way I used to do it at Cibreo Restaurant in Florence…. too many years ago! They ended up being the perfect match to a slow roasted lamb shank that was served for main course at the party. Guests truly loved it!
There are few things as Mediterranean as the artichokes. Besides California being the top US producer, most of the countries facing the Mediterranean sea are the world’s major producers of artichokes with Italy topping the chart. That’s why the Italians had to figure out a way to put them to good use. So, not only did they cook with artichokes but many years ago, they came up with Cynar: a nasty digestive liqueur that’s more bitter than a speeding ticket.
Cynar aside, I want to share my versatile and delicious artichoke recipe with you. It’s a great side dish, goes well as a pasta sauce (egg past recommended, fettuccine being my favorite), it makes a killer risotto (use a basic risotto parmigiana recipe and add the braised artichokes halfway). You might find it difficult to pair with wine. Enjoy.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 6 each medium artichokes
- 2-3 cloves garlic chopped
- 5-6 leaves basil torn
- 1 small bunch Italian parsley chopped
- 1 3/4 inch thick slice Prosciutto di Parma cut in cubes
- 1.5 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup lemon juice
- Peel off the outer leaves. Peel the bottom skin of the artichokes with a paring knife. Cut the top off and slice in quarters or sixes Keep them in water with lemon juice.
- Pour the olive oil in the pan and add the artichokes, chopped garlic , basil leaves, parsley and the Prosciutto pieces. Add salt and pepper, being careful with the salt as the Prosciutto tends to release a lot of salt through cooking.
- Let it cook for a couple of minutes on high heat then add the chicken stock. Lower to medium heat and cover with a lid. They are cooked when the knife slides easily through the “heart”.