From the end of November the artichokes season begins here in Tuscany.
It’s a pity, because our job of private chef in Tuscany and cooking classes coach is just ended. I’m so disappointed that I can’t cook them for our customers in Summer; but we prefer using seasonal ingredients, local produce only.
Maybe you don’t know that artichokes have very few calories and many fibers, are diuretics, and therefore useful for those who fight cellulite, and detoxifying. In fact, besides being excellent, they have qualities and therapeutic virtues that make them a very useful ingredient for our health.
At the time of purchase, the artichoke must have a firm and straight stem, the tip well closed and the leaves of a dark green mixed with violet, fleshy and crisp.
The most important cultivations are first of all in Italy:
Tuscany, Puglia, Lazio, Campania, Sicily. But somewhere else in Europe there are cultivations in France and Spain.
The artichoke in the kitchen can be prepared in different ways.
- First of all, if they are young and tender it is preferable to eat them raw, cut into thin slices and seasoned with oil, lemon and mint. We call this dish“carpaccio di carciofi” (artichokes carpaccio) and it’s definitely my fav dish!
Then you can eat them
- Boiled and seasoned with oil, salt and pepper
- Fried with flour and water “pastella”
- Soups, savory pies, risotto, salads, second courses of stuffed artichokes.
Furthermore, authentic delicacies are the famous:
- carciofi “alla giudia”, fried and gilded
- carciofi “alla romana”, cooked in a pan with water, oil and herbs.
A bit of…history
Well, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans already knew the artichoke. Anyway it came in Europe in the Middle Ages when the Arabs brought it from northern Africa to Spain. The Italian name of this plant derives from the Arabic “kharshuff”, through the Spanish “alcachofa”.
- 8 artichokes
- 4 tbsp extra virgin oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 sprig of thyme (or catmint)
- 200gr (7 oz) pancetta dolce (bacon, better if not smoked)
- 1 glass white wine
- ½ lemon
- to taste hot pepper flakes
- to taste Salt & Pepper
- 320gr (12 oz) mezze maniche
- Squeeze some lemon juice on your fingers (so they do not blacken) and clean the artichokes by removing the outer and coriaceous leaves.
- Use a big knife to cut each artichoke about 2 cm (1 inch) from the thorns
- leave 6 cm (3 inch) of stem and scratch it with a knife.
- Put artichokes in cold water where you squeezed one lemon juice and put the whole lemon.
- Leave in water for at least 5 minutes
- In a large no sticking pan put the bacon (medium heat) and wait until translucent
- Put the pancetta (bacon) in a cup and leave the pan aside
- Drain the artichokes
- Cut the stem and cut it in washers
- cut the artichokes in half, then in thin slices
- Pour the oil and the clove of garlic in the pan where you cooked the bacon (medium heat)
- as you can see some bubbles around the garlic, pour in the artichokes (high fire)
- stir for about 2 minutes and pour the wine
- as evaporated the wine, turn medium heat, add the thyme and lid the pan
- let they cook for about 10 minutes
- Artichokes are ready when you taste a piece of stem and it's rightly tender
- add salt, pepper, hot pepper and stir
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water (1 handful coarse salt, 1 teaspoon fine salt).
- Pour the pasta in the boiling water. Count the cooking time from when the water is boiling again.
- Taste the pasta and drain it with a colander (colapasta)
- just before draining pasta, pour the bacon in the pan with the artichokes (high heat)
- pour the pasta from the colander directly to the pan and stir (or flip) until well seasoned.
- Pasta with this delicious sauce is ready, if you like you can also sprinkle with parmesan on the top.
- Buon Appetito!