Many saw him in photographs in magazines or even on supermarket shelves, but few people from the northern countries imagine what this artichoke is and what it is eaten with ...
Without exaggeration, it can be called the "Winter King" of Italian cuisine. Italians love the artichoke for three reasons: It has a pronounced unique taste, is versatile in cooking and is rich in substances useful to the body. In Italy, fresh artichokes are available for eight months a year, from October to June. There are many varieties of them, some of which bear fruit several times a year. Artichokes are ubiquitous, but Italy is the world leader in their production.
Artichokes are grown for their unopened flowers. In its mature form, this plant resembles a thistle, it uses young unopened inflorescence baskets for food. Therefore, it is very important that the "vegetable" you bought is young, without dried tips: after all, the older the inflorescence, the less it is edible. By the way, together with the basket, a substantial part of the stem of the artichoke is often cut, but before cooking it is usually cut along with the top most stiff leaves.
In the market you can find various varieties of artichokes. They come in a round and elongated shape, rich green color and various shades, even with purple streaks. Some are equipped with spikes on the outer leaves, others lack such protection. In the world there are more than 90 (according to some sources - 140) of various types of artichokes.
Useful properties of artichokes
According to recent scientific studies, the use of artichokes is of great benefit and helps to avoid many diseases. These fruits have a tonic property, soothe a cough, help cleanse the blood, dissolve kidney stones and are powerful antioxidants. Artichokes contain substances such as iron, sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, PP, malic acid, citric acid, tannins and sugars that are suitable even for diabetics.
How to use?
The most tender and valuable part of the artichoke is its core, hidden under a layer of stiffer and bitter leaves. At the same time, a bundle of hay is hidden in the very center of this core, which is also inedible. Young artichokes can even be consumed raw, but in most cases they are still boiled in water with the addition of vinegar or lemon juice (in order to avoid blackening of the leaves). Before cooking, the artichoke is cleaned of several upper layers of leaves and the inner layers are cut to the middle. It should be borne in mind that after cooking, artichokes are not stored for a long time. The water saturated with mineral salts after cooking can be stored and subsequently added to soup or broth, thereby giving them a special aroma.
Italians prepare hundreds of dishes using artichokes. They are fried, boiled and baked, added to pizza, pasta, rice, soups and salads. But perhaps one of the most famous artichoke dishes are "Artichokes in Roman" (Carciofi alla romana).
- 4 artichokes (best of the Roman variety "Mammole")
- 1 bunch parsley
- lemon juice
- some lemon balm leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons grated crackers
- 1 clove of garlic
Roman Artichoke Recipe
Peel the outer dry leaves of the artichoke, leaving only the core. Turn the cores and remove hay from them. Leave 5 cm of the stem of the artichoke and peel it and the artichoke itself of unnecessary external fibers; during this operation, try to keep the artichoke leg no shorter than 5 cm. Place the artichokes in a container filled with cold water and lemon juice so that the leaves do not turn black.
Grind together garlic, lemon balm and parsley. Mix with breadcrumbs, pepper, salt and dilute with a little olive oil.
Take the artichoke and "fluffing" the leaves with your fingers, drain all the water from it as much as possible. Start the artichoke with a mixture of crackers with herbs. And fill not only the center cleared of hay, but also the space between the leaves. Repeat the procedure with all the artichokes.
Fill the stuffed artichokes in a deep baking sheet or pan (the height of the sides should be equal to the height of the artichokes) so that their "head" is at the bottom and the stalks at the top. Make sure that the artichokes are firm and will not fall during the cooking process. Pour artichokes with a mixture of water and olive oil (50/50). Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes and then over low heat for about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the artichokes.
Serve artichokes coated with the sauce in which they were prepared.
It is very common to serve this dish with anchovies in oil (without oil) or salt (without salt). Sliced in small pieces, anchovies are simply placed between the leaves of artichokes.
Roman artichokes are most often served hot, but are also good as a cold appetizer.