Preparing Artichokes the Italian Way

An Artichoke, Ready to be Prepared

An Artichoke, Ready to be Prepared

I remember the first time I had an artichoke, many years ago: It was steamed, and we pulled away the leaves, sucking the soft flesh from the leaf bases and discarding the rest, until we got to the artichoke hearts. This isn’t the Italian way, nor are instructions I have seen that call for trimming the tips of the leaves with shears particularly Italian. Rather, Italians begin with a fresh artichoke of the kind shown here, stem and all.

This particular artichoke is a fine example of a cultivar called Morellino, and has long, sharp spines on the ends of the petals. It’s important to get rid of them all.

Preparing an Artichoke: Strip Away The Outer Leaves

Preparing an Artichoke: Strip Away The Outer Leaves

Begin by rubbing your hands with a cut lemon to keep the artichoke’s juices from staining them. Next, start pulling away the tough outer leaves (pull down, towards the stem), working around the artichoke, until you reach the tenderer inner leaves, which will snap off much more easily. Exactly how many leaves one must remove is something learned with experience, but don’t be surprised if you discard a third or more of the leaves.

Preparing an Artichoke: Trim the Tip

Preparing an Artichoke: Trim the Tip

Once you have reached the tenderer inner leaves, you must trim the tip of the artichoke to dispose of the spines that even they have.

Preparing an Artichoke: The Tip, Trimmed

Preparing an Artichoke: The Tip, Trimmed

Rub your finger across the freshly cut surface of the artichoke to make certain there are no remaining spines. If there are, remove the offending leaves.

Preparing an Artichoke: Trim the Stem

Preparing an Artichoke: Trim the Stem

If you are planning to do something that requires standing the artichokes up, for example stuffing them, trim the stem flat with the base of the petals. Here we were going to need sliced artichokes, and trimmed the stem of the artichoke leaving about an inch (2.5 cm) below the petals.

Preparing an Artichoke: Paring the Stem

Preparing an Artichoke: Paring the Stem

If you look at the stem of an artichoke you will see a ring, with tough green bark (for want of a better term) surrounding a paler green heart. The “bark” is not good to eat, and you should remove it with a paring knife, leaving the heart of the stem, which is good to eat. When you’re done preparing the artichokes, peel the stems to reveal their hearts, and use the hearts too (chopped) in the recipe. Returning to our artichoke, the next step:

Preparing an Artichoke: Trimmed!

Preparing an Artichoke: Trimmed!

Artichokes discolor quickly when exposed to the air. To prevent this, rub the artichoke all over with a cut lemon.

Preparing an Artichoke: Halved

Preparing an Artichoke: Halved

The trimmed artichokes, cut in half. Note that their hearts have some fuzz. This fuzz is unpleasant to eat, and must go.

Preparing an Artichoke: Remove The Fuzz From the Heart

Preparing an Artichoke: Remove The Fuzz From the Heart

Use either a paring knife or a spoon to remove the fuzz from the heart of the artichoke.

Preparing an Artichoke: Slicing It

Preparing an Artichoke: Slicing It

The artichokes are now ready to be sliced. Depending upon what you are doing, you may want to quarter them, or cut them into eighths. Or, you may want to slice them as we did here, to go into baked pasta with artichokes. In any case, enjoy!

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Categories: Carciofi & Cardi - Artichokes & Cardoons, Illustrated Recipes And More, Italian Ingredients, Tecniques

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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