Baby Artichokes, Roman Style

Baby Artichokes braised with herbs, garlic and extra virgin olive oil

Artichokes, Roman Style are one of the signature dishes that Spring has finally arrived.  Whether made from large globe artichokes, smaller, purplish Italian varieties or baby artichokes the basic technique of braising the vegetable in nearly equal parts water and olive oil with herbs is a classic Roman antiipasto or first course that’s even better at room temperature then hot from the pot.

1/2 lemon or 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 baskets baby artichokes, approximately 20
Coarse salt to taste
1 cup mixed coarsely chopped fresh herbs like mint, basil, Italian parsley leaves only
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1  cup olive oil
EVO for drizzling
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves for garnish

Squeeze the lemon into a bowl of water and throw the squeezed lemon in as well or add the vinegar to a bowl of water sufficient to cover the cleaned artichokes. Set aside.

Cleaning Artichokes
How to clean baby artichokes

To clean and trim the artichokes, remove the tough, dark green outer leaves of the artichokes until you begin to see more tender, yellowish leaves. Cut the point off the artichoke. Trim the stem, removing the outer dark green layer and leaving as much heart as you can. If the artichokes are large cut them in half lengthwise. Add them to the acidulated water. (That means the water you acidified by adding either lemon juice or vinegar)

Expect the artichokes to discolor your hands if you clean a lot of them. Or wear gloves.

To cook, first drain the artichokes.  Add them to a heavy pot with a good fitting lid. I use my small Le Cruset. Add the herbs, garlic, salt to taste and the olive oil. Give it a good stir to distribute herbs and oil with the artichokes.  Add enough water to come one-third up the artichokes.  Take a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the artichokes and lay it over the artichokes so that it touches them.  This will cause the steam to be much more effective and will cut cooking time.  Bring the pot to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Cook until a paring knife easily slides into the artichokes but they still retain their shape. If you’ve cut the baby artichokes in half cooking time is reduced. Start checking after 10 minutes then in 5 minute intervals.

Remove the artichokes from the pot with a slotted spoon to a platter.  Bring the remaining liquid to a boil and reduce slightly, if necessary.  The liquid should be a bit thickened.  Pour the liquid over the artichokes adding additional extra virgin olive oil if desired.  Garnish with chopped parsley. These can be made up to 2 days in advance but are best when served the same day they are cooked.

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