Artichokes alla romana – it’s spring
I have been waiting for artichokes to arrive and they finally have. Nothing says spring to me like these compact soldiers wrapped in protective layers of thorny armor. I have written more about them here.
Once you get past the initial intimidation this not-so-familiar vegetable tends to cause, you find that it really is a rather simple affair to work with. You slice it through the middle, peel back the thorny leaves around the stem and rub the cut surfaces with lemon to prevent excess discolouration. From there it’s a breeze. Drop into a pot filled with water and lemon and cook until tender. When it’s cooked, you will need to remove the hairy choke in the center but it comes off easily once the arti is cooked.
This recipe is one of my favourite ways to serve an artichoke and it is called Artichoke alla Romana. For this recipe you need to scoop out the hairy choke before cooking, a little more messy than doing it after, but the results are well worth it. Once you prep it you simply cook the artichoke in olive oil and vegetable stock until it is cooked through, and it doesn’t take very long. You then reduced the cooking liquids to a sauce that you can pour over arti before serving. Simple and delicious.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 springs thyme
4 mint leaves, chopped
A pinch hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, more as needed
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Vegetable stock, about 2 cups
Have ready a bowl filled with cold water and squeeze the juice of half a lemon into it.
Cut the artichoke about 1/3 of the way from the bottom. Rub cut surface with the other lemon half.
Peel back and snap the leaves around the base of the artichoke without cutting off the stem.
Peel the outer layer of skin off the stem but keep the stem intact.
Rub all cut surfaces with the lemon and drop into the lemon water bowl.
Repeat with remaining artichokes.
Place the oil and garlic and the lemons halves in a pot large enough to hold the four artichokes.
Heat the oil and when it is warm add the artichokes, cut side down, then add the stock so it comes to about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the artichokes but not up to the stem.
Add thyme, mint, pepper flakes, salt and parsley.
Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat to a steady simmer and cover the pot.
Cook until the artichokes are cooked through. you can insert a knife into them to see if they are done.
When they are ready remove the artichokes to a plate.
Raise the heat a little under the pot and reduce the liquid to a light sauce consistency.
Place one artichoke in the center of a plate, drizzle with the sauce and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Serve with additional coarse sea salt for sprinkling.