It's been a while since I last wrote about artichokes. I have a long-lasting love affair with thistle-like flowerheads that borders illicit.
I like to eat them in every fashion, be they steamed with just a dribble of melted butter, tossed in "vignarola" (sautéed peas, lettuce, fava beans and bacon), thinly sliced and then deep fried in batter, in pasta dressing, mixed in with braised sweetbreads, alla Romana. When I'm lazy, I pluck the raw inner leaves, and dip them in seasoned olive oil. There are so many ways of enjoying carciofi!
One of my favorite winter artichoke recipes, is the delightful and citrusy insalata di carciofi, a perky raw artichoke salad. Perfect for Sunday lunch, this makes for a great sidekick to rack of lamb with rosemary and roasted potatoes.
It's easy to make, and you can put it together quickly. It however benefits from marinading before serving. Here's what you need to serve 4 artichoke lovers:
6 small winter artichokes
A large chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Juice of 2 lemons
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Soak the artichokes in plenty cold water and baking soda to remove any traces of pesticides or field dirt, rinse several times and pat dry. Cut away outer leaves, inner fuzz and the outside skin from the stems. You can follow my step-by-step artichoke trimming tutorial if need be; or take advantage of the signora at your farmer's market who pares them for her aficionado clients.
Cut the trimmed chokes in quarters and slice them finely, directly into the salad bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice. This will prevent them from darkening, and will provide the acidic base for the dressing.
Season with very little salt, plenty freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Toss and let the salad marinate for at least an hour before serving.
When ready to bring at the table, use a mandoline to shave thin wafers of Parmigiano over the seasoned artichokes, I personally abound.
You could, of course, pour a red wine to accompany this dish, but we don’t want to go there. Artichokes are hard to pair. But a bottle of dry white, chilling in a bucket on the table, within easy reach is a fine solution.