I’m lucky to live in an area where I can find locally grown artichokes at the farmers’ market. The above photo was taken in Italy, but it could have been taken here, as we’ve had gorgeous artichokes for the past month or so. The ones sold here are mostly the larger ones and unlike in Italy, I’ve never seen anyone selling artichokes that have been cleaned down to the heart as you do see at the local markets there. Had I seen them prepared that way, I would have purchased them for tonight’s dinner.
I have a wonderful memory of a dinner we had in Rome at Trattoria Armando right across from the Pantheon. It was an unseasonably cold evening. The restaurant was cozy and inviting. I ordered a bowl of stracciatella soup as a starter and eating it reminded me of being in my grandmother’s kitchen. I don’t remember what I had for a main corse, but I do know that when we were first seated I noticed a beautiful platter filled with Carciofi Alla Romana. As soon as I saw them, I knew that I would be ordering one as a “contorno” (side dish) to my entree. The artichoke was perfectly prepared and I enjoyed every bite.
I’ve been meaning to make these for ages and tonight I finally did. I don’t know why I waited so long since these were not at all difficult to prepare. We’re having a dinner party this weekend and I just may have to add them to the menu.
Carciofi Alla Romana
6 large artichokes
1 lemon, halved
1 cup water
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
Keep stem attached and, at opposite end, cut off top 1″ of artichoke with a serrated knife. Bend back outer leaves until they snap off close to the base, then discard several more layers of leaves in the same manner until you reach pale yellow leaves with pale green tops.
Cut remaining leaves flush with the top of artichoke bottom using a sharp knife, them pull out purple leaves and scoop out the fuzzy choke. Trim dark green fibrous parts from the base and sides of the artichoke with a sharp paring knife, then rub cut surfaces with lemon half.
Cut 1/4′ from the stem end to expose inner core. Trim sides of the stem (still attached) to pale inner core. Rub cut surfaces with same lemon half.
Trim remaining artichokes in the same manner. Put water and oil in 4-quart heavy pot.
Mince and mash garlic with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and then mix in mint. Rub 1/6 garlic paste into the cavity of each artichoke, then stand artichokes upside down in liquid in pot. Sprinkle remaining teaspoon salt over the artichokes, then simmer, covered, over low heat, until tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Transfer artichokes to a serving dish and boil cooking liquid, whisking until emulsified and reduced to 1/3 cup. Spoon sauce over artichoke and serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 6 servings. Recipe from Gourmet 2002.
Armando al Pantheon
Salita dei Crescenzi, 31