Autumn Artichokes Artichokes, anytime … if you can find them!

Artichokes, anytime … if you can find them!

Nov 16th Artichokes

I made this spring/summer dish (depending on if you can find fresh artichokes) and sent the recipe to Lynne Barrett via e-mail 4/15/06, Easter Saturday. But it’s autumn now, but since I found these delightful little artichokes in Publix I decided to make this dish, and because the chokes inside are smaller to deal with than the larger, not so tender, ones (that is to say, here in the States—in Italy, they’re fabulous, but then again, don’t I say that about everything Italian? But in this instance, of course, it happens to be true.)

PASTA AI CARCIOFI
Pasta with artichokes

I bought 2 dozen of the little baby artichokes … these are the ones I used the hearts of to “put up” or conserve under oil … the very ones you pay a small fortune for in an Italian deli. I did this usually in Italy in May at the end of the season. What work! I josh not. If you want the exact recipe, I’ll be happy to send it along to you. Clue me. But truthfully, what’s the point? It’s much less work and in the long run cheaper to buy a jar in your local Italian deli, such as Bella Monte’s on Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach.

Anyway you cut off the tops of the artichokes, clean the steams but leave some middle part. Here the stems are very short—another absurdity—they are delicious, so why do the pickers and grocers cut them off? It’s like the zucchini flowers. I dare you to tell me what supermarket sells them in south Florida—or for that matter anywhere? You have to pick them, which means a drive to LA.

Continuing … you pare down the leaves to the whitish/yellowish ones—and quarter—and cut out the hairy choke. Toss these into a bowl with lotsa lemon and water—and perhaps a dash of white vinegar to keep them white, else they turn black in seconds before your eyes like food for baby vampires.

In a heavy saucepan—I use my mother’s old iron one—lace the bottom with a generous spill of extra virgin olive oil, some sliced onion and minced garlic—I usually put the garlic through a press—and fling in the artichokes—turn up the heat high for about 10 minutes and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and mint. (In Italy we use “mentuccia,” which is found growing wild and is much stronger than regular mint. Douse with fresh squeezed lemon(at least a ½ glass, and a hit of water, perhaps another 1/2 a glass, and a goblet full to brimming of Pinot Grigio—I cook with whatever we’re drinking! Chardonnay is nice, a little oakey, and so is Sauvignon Blanc, a little fruity—just make sure it’s white. Lower the heat.

Cover the pot with a brown paper bag cut to fit over the bottom … I have no clue why—just do it, and then a tight lid cover. I always make them like this (perhaps they steam better), as I was taught that way 37 years ago by the Portiere–Domenica Centini, the door lady in my first apartment in Rome on Via Alberto Cadlolo 15.

One never forgets details like that and the fact that she had two fat cats that sunned themselves in the rose garden–we had roses even in December, even after the last cacchi (persimmons), a true gift from God before winter’s advent—it is as delectable as tropical fruit. I had two trees growing up from the downstairs neighbor’s garden in our apartment at Via Prisciano 1, and we never lacked for them—you pick them hard before the bird get them—the one s you can reach, naturally, and then you line up these orange globes on your windowsills, and watch the magic of nature as they turn deep in color and soft to touch. (Pardon, the digression).

Now lower the heat and cook for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes

Toss with pasta handfuls of fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano!
P. S. If you like bay leaf–you can add one to the pot

Also carciofi like this may be added to fave and fresh garden peas for an insalata gardiniera~! Perfect in spring and for Easter. Season with oil, lemon, minced onion, mint. Salt and pepper to taste.

Last spring when I spoke to my friend Sandra in Milano, she was making baby goat and agretti, thick grass-like stringbeans, perhaps a skinny forerunner of actual stringbeans, and not found in these here parts, sorry to say. Also “puntarella” (found only in Rome!) a pointy salad—a total bitch to clean! served with garlic and anchovies to die for! (Ask Felipe if that’s a lie)

Tomorrow I’ll call my aunts in Sicily, which reminds me of my Mom’s stuffed artichokes.

Easy as pie—wash and cut of the tops, run a lemon all over the outer leaves, stuff the leaves with a mixture of seasoned breadcrumbs and grated cheese–parmigiano and or pecorino and baptize the whole thing with olive oil. Place the stuffed artichokes in a huge heavy pot in about an inch of water, lemon, and white wine, and a sprinkle of more oil. Turn the heat high for 10 minutes–when the water burbles–such a Brooklyn word! lower and cook on low heat for another 35. the leaves should be tender at the bottom ends, and stay put but want to fall off. Vai a capire!

Maybe I’ll call Sandra in Milano, and Pina in Rome just to see what they’re cooking … how I miss Italy!!! Always around the holidays, it seems worse. (Even though they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I always made a turkey dinner and it was enjoyed. The sweet potatoes I used to buy at the market were white inside with a chestnutty flavor … scrumptious.

Blessing to all for Thanksgiving. We all have so much to be thankful for–I’m thankful for you for having read this blog to the end and your family will be thankful when you experiment with artichokes.