Carciofi alla Giudia, Roman Jewish Artichokes

Carciofo alla Giudia, a Jewish-Style Artichoke

Carciofo alla Giudia, a Jewish-Style Artichoke

When I first presented this recipe I wishfully thought that it could date back to Imperial times, when the Roman Jewish community numbered about 50,000. This is alas not the case; Clifford Wright argues convincingly that artichokes were bred from cardoons — which the Romans were aware of — by the Arabs in the early Middle Ages, probably in Sicily.

This simply means that the recipe is a bit more recent — the Strozzi family introduced artichokes to Florence from Naples in 1466, and I would assume that the Romans would have quickly become aware of something grown north and south of them if they weren’t already — and there is in any case no denying that carciofi alla giudia are a wonderful treat: They look like golden sunflowers and their leaves have a delicious nutty crunchiness.

You’ll need:

  • Artichokes (they should be large, round, and firm, and have some stem — 2-3 inches, or 5-7 cm). Figure one per person, and perhaps one more
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper
  • A half a lemon, and the juice of a second lemon for acidulating the water

Giuliano Malizia notes, in La Cucina Romana e del Lazio, that carciofi alla giudia are easy to make, but do require care.

You’ll want to begin by preparing the artichokes:

Take one and start trimming the leaves away, beginning from the base and removing the outer darker part of the leaves that is tough, while leaving the more tender inner part.

As you work your way up the artichoke you will have to trim away progressively less from each ring of leaves. When you reach a little past the half way point of the artichoke, where the leaves begin to slope in, make a horizontal cut to remove the top quarter or so of the artichoke. Next, cut into the top of the artichoke, keeping your knife almost vertical, to remove any spines there may be in the smaller leaves towards the heart of the flower.

Next, trim away the tip of the stem, which will likely be black — you will see a ring in the middle of the cut surface. The outside of an artichoke stem, beyond the ring, is tough and fibrous. What is inside is however both tender and tasty. Remove the fibrous part, rub the artichoke with a cut, partially squeezed lemon to keep it from blackening, and put it in a bowl of water acidulated with the juice of a lemon.

Do the next artichoke, and continue until you have prepared all your artichokes.

Come time to cook your artichokes, heat 3 inches (8 cm) of olive oil, or another oil with a high smoke point if you prefer, in a fairly deep, fairly broad pot (one large enough to contain the artichokes flat, and the oil should almost cover them).

While it is heating, stand your artichokes on absorbent paper to drain, and prepare a bowl with fine sea salt (non-iodized) and pepper. Season the artichokes inside and out with salt and pepper and shake off the excess. Some people also slip finely chopped garlic and parsley between the leaves, but purists frown at this.

Slip your artichokes into the hot oil and cook them for about 10 minutes, turning them in the oil so they cook evenly. Remove them to a plate lined with absorbent paper — at this point they’re partially cooked, and you could, if you want, resume cooking them later.

Assuming you want to enjoy them now, however, reheat your oil — it should be hot now, because this is the frying stage — before they simply cooked in the hot oil — and slip the first artichoke in, initially horizontally.

Fry the artichoke for 3-4 minutes, until the stem is browned, and then use a pair of long-handled implements along the lines of bbq forks to upend the artichoke. Press down gently; the leaves will brown thanks to the heat of the bottom of the pan, and the artichoke will open like a flower.

While the artichoke is browning, line a second plate with absorbent paper. Put the first artichoke to drain blossom down, and continue with the next. Continue until you have finished frying your artichokes.

I like them as is. You can, if you prefer, serve them with lemon wedges.

An Excellent Video Showing How To Prepare Carciofi alla Giudia


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Categories: Carciofi & Cardi - Artichokes & Cardoons, Recipes from Rome & Lazio, Cucina Romana e Laziale

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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