simple pleasures

simple pleasures

Rome, Italy. A place best known for such things as the Coliseum, the Trevi fountain, and the Vatican.  A lesser-known gem is a simple dish called Carciofi alla Giudea, beautifully fried artichokes that originated in the Jewish ghetto of Rome.

When made correctly, they resemble golden roses.

Carciofi alla giudea

They are also fun to crunch upon.  A Bloomin’ Onion of Yesteryear, if you will . . . although the ancient Romans would probably roll over in their graves upon hearing that comparison.

While I have never made these myself, doing so would be much more economical than hopping the next plane to Rome.  Just in case the flight is booked, here’s a recipe from Epicurious.  If it seems too complicated, there’s always stand-by.

Carciofi alla Giudea

  • 3 lemons, divided
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • Olive oil (for frying)

Cut 1 lemon in half. Squeeze juice into large bowl; add lemon halves. Fill bowl 2/3 full with water. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, break off dark outer leaves until only pale green leaves remain. Trim end off stem and cut 1/2 inch off top of artichoke; add to lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.

Fill another large bowl with ice water. Blanch artichokes in large saucepan of boiling salted water 10 seconds; transfer to ice water to cool completely. Remove artichokes from water and shake off excess moisture. Gently pry open leaves and press as flat as possible. Invert artichokes onto paper-towel-lined work surface and press to hold leaves open. Drain 30 minutes. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature.)

Line large baking sheet with paper towels. Add enough olive oil to heavy large saucepan to reach depth of 2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of saucepan with tip submerged in oil. Heat oil over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°F. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, firmly grasp stem end of artichoke with long tongs. Submerge artichoke in oil to bottom of saucepan, pressing to keep leaves spread open, and fry until leaves hold shape, about 15 seconds. Release artichoke (it will turn stem side down). Repeat with 3 more artichokes and continue frying until artichoke hearts are just tender when pierced with knife, about 4 minutes longer. Using tongs, remove artichokes from oil; transfer, stem side up, to paper towels, pressing slightly to hold leaves open. Turn artichokes over to drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining artichokes. Sprinkle with salt.

Slice remaining lemons into wedges. Serve artichokes with lemon wedges.

Market tip

Shop for baby artichokes as the Italians do:

Choose each one individually, selecting those that are heavy for their size. The leaves should have no brown edges and should wrap tightly around the heart.