THE ARTICHOKE BLOG
Welcome to The Artichoke Blog
I have been writing about Italian artichoke recipes and artichoke festivals for a few years but lately have been preoccupied with many other things in life such as family and business commitments. I haven’t found a lot of time for the regular posting of late but plan to work harder on getting a book published. This blog will be updated with recipes and travel posts in the future when as I manage my new family and new business.
Please have a look around and drop me a comment anytime.
Here you are.
Palermo Street Artichokes
Carciofi Lessi Palermitani
As a teenager, Sicily was always the mythical headquarters for Italian mafia and the epicentre of the whole underworld was Palermo. So it was with great anticipation that I visited Palermo and got to roam the streets being wary that everyone you would encounter could have a connection to some guy called Leftie.
But the streets of this busy city is where life continues to be as rich as ever, especially with hidden markets and lots of local food sellers strewn throughout the crazy network of streets. I was particularly interested in finding these artichokes that are cooked on the roadside every morning.
There are usually a number of other cauldrons containing other vegetables like potatoes and carrots. Throughout the year, the coal coloured cauldrons are filled with different seasonal produce so it was important to visit Palermo during the artichoke season and sample what I thought was Sicily’s fast food from the street, with an ancient heritage.
These artichokes can be something to grab on the run and snack on while you sit in a park watching old men playing cards but that may seem odd, I’m not sure. The most common way the locals tell me they eat them is to take them home, cut them up, mix and dress them in a simple garlic and chili oil. These can be cut up with other boiled vegetables from the neighbouring cauldrons and you can have an instant family meal.
While I never had a kitchen while I was in Palermo I have waited til now to try out the most traditional preparation and worked on a simple variation with coarse breadcrumbs, which retains local authenticity and adds another texture to the dish.
There are three great things about the preparation of artichokes in this way. The first is that apart from a quick rinse with water, you do not need to prepare or clean up the artichokes in any way. The second is that all you need to do is salt some boiling water and throw them in for half an hour. And finally, most of the artichoke, including the whole stem is usually edible.
Carciofi Lessi Palermitani
4 cloves of garlic
1 large dried chili
1 handful of parsley leaf
2 handfuls if coarse breadcrumbs
extra virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt generously.
Rinse the artichokes and place them into the pot and allow to boil gently for about half an hour on the back burner.
Peel the garlic cloves and gently squash them with the side of the knife. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil in a pan. Place the garlic in and allow to heat gently in the oil.
Finely chop the dried chili and add to the oil with the garlic remembering that the chili seeds carry most of the heat, so go easy with the amount of seeds if you prefer it more on the mild side.
Heat this through the oil very gently until the garlic turns golden in colour.
Remove the contents from the pan into a bowl and set aside.
Remove the garlic form the oil and chop up finely and add back to the oil stirring through again.
Chop your parsley leaf and add some of it to the chili garlic oil and mix through.
Heat another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in the same pan and heat moderately before adding your coarse breadcrumbs. Keep these moving in the pan by tossing or using a wooden spatula. They are ready when they begin to look golden and crunchy. Remove from the pan immediately to stop cooking and set aside.
Now you have two options to dress the artichokes with. One, oil based and the other with the addition of breadcrumbs.
When the artichokes are tender enough for the point of a small sharp knife to penetrate, turn the heat off and gently remove from the water.
Allow to drain and cool slightly for 10 minutes of so.
When they are cool enough to handle, gently squeeze the remainder of the water out of them. Once that is done, it is time to cut them in half (or quarters) on your work-bench.
Using a sharp chefs knife, cut exactly into half taking extra care to continue the cut along the entire length of the stem. If you prefer you can actually start cutting the stem down the middle and continue into the body of the artichoke.
Cut all the artichokes in this way and lay out open side up. They will still be steaming on the inside.
If the artichokes have the little hairy centre, remove this using a teaspoon or melon baller.
Now you have a cavity for your dressing.
You can choose to spoon in the garlic chili oil mixture into the cavity and also drizzle the surrounding petals or you can mix in the breadcrumbs with the oil and fill the cavity with this mixture.
Finally, sprinkle with a little more chopped parsley leaf.
You can pre-prepare the artichokes ahead of time and allow them to cool entirely.
Cut and prepare the same way but reheat in an oven at 180 degrees C / 355 degrees F for 10 minutes with a loose foil covering to ensure no further drying out of the artichoke flesh.
Arrange on a large platter and serve.
These are eaten petal by petal.