madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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insalata di carciofi e limoni

tangy, buttery and crunchy, this is just a perfect salad

ARTICHOKES AND SALT-BOILED LEMON SALAD.    I am such a simple soul. There are things that make me happy over and over again. Like finding a new good recipe.

I have lots of “old ” family recipes which I always make, they are safe. Of course I collect new recipes too. Too many of them.

I happen to be one of those who read cookbooks like a novel. In some cases, I read them so many times that eventually I feel  I have made friends with the cooks (or may be their ghost writers).

I get lots of inspiration but most often I will bend the recipe to the mood of the day and to what’s in my refrigerator.

Years ago however, I found this artichoke and lemon salad on The River Cafè Cookbook by  Gray and Rogers, two ladies I wish would have been my neighbors. This salad is  so perfect that does not need any interpretation, it cannot be adapted or improved, it’s mine for life.

Admittedly, I have decreased the amounts of olive oil, but that’s it. This is one of the advantages of living in Umbria:  my olive oil tastes better, I don’t need so much.

Recipe

  • 4 organic lemons
  • 6 small or 4 large artichokes
  • 150 gr (5 oz)  toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soft raw honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a sprinkle fresh thyme or basil leaves (optional)

Wash the lemons thoroughly and put 3 of them whole into a small saucepan. Cover with water and 100 gr. (4 oz) salt. Cover and boil for 20 min until the skin can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

Juice half of the remaining lemon, reserve.  Add the other half to a pan of water you will use to cook the artichokes. Bring the water to the boil, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt.

Drop the artichokes in the boiling water and cook for 20 min or until one of the central leaves comes away with a little give. Drain and cool. Pull away the outer tough leaves, trim stems, and cut away the choke if there is any. Quarter artichokes and then cut quarters in half again.

Cut the boiled lemons in half,  scoop out and discard the pulp and the inner segments. Cut the soft skins into strips and add to artichokes and almonds in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix the honey with the lemon juice, then add the olive oil. Pour over the artichokes, add a little fresh thyme or basil if desired

Serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish


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sformato di carciofi

meltingly delicious, I can have artichokes every day

ARTICHOKE TIMBALE .   This recipe reminds me so much of my mother that I can hardly bring myself to write about it. It brings good, happy memories as this was one of her favorite dishes for picnics.  Yes, other people had sandwiches and salads, we had lasagne, eggplant parmesan and sformato di carciofi. We also had a small folding table with a miniature table-cloth and real fork and knives, no plastic. So we lived in the ’70, eating good and proper under the spring sun.

Recipe

  • 8 artichokes
  • 6 eggs
  • 100 gr (3 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 200 gr (7 ounces) mozzarella or cow’s milk caciotta thinly sliced
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoon bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 lemon

Put a large pan of water on the fire, squeeze the juice of the lemon in the water and add the squeezed lemon to it. This prevents the artichokes turning a scary turquoise color while cooking. Rinse artichokes and drop in the boiling water. Cook for 20 min or until one of the central leaves come away with a little give. Drain and cool. Pull away the outer tough leaves, peel and trim stems, and cut away the choke if there is any. Quarter artichokes and then cut quarters in half again.

Beat the eggs with the Parmesan and season. Butter a bundt-pan generously, then dust with the bread crumbs, knocking out the excess. Now build up the timbale in the pan by layering artichokes and cheese  ending with artichokes. Pour the egg and cheese mixture, sprinkle with an extra tablespoon or two of Parmesan and bake at 200 °C (390 °F) until set and golden.

Serves 8 as an appetizer, 6 as a vegetarian main. Serve at room temperature.


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carciofi fritti

a tender spring artichoke

a tender spring artichoke

FRIED ARTICHOKES. When the first young artichokes appear in the markets one starts to hope that winter is  getting to an end.

An artichoke is a flower bud. A fresh artichoke is bright and unblemished, leaves are tightly packed. If the flower starts to open the artichoke will be full of choke and the leaves will be stringy, tough and virtually inedible.

Recipe

  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 young artichokes
  • oil for deep frying like sunflower oil
  • 2/3 cup regular flour (use rice flour for a gluten free alternative)

Cleaning artichokes requires a little practice but it is easier with the young and tender flowers which, by the way, can be eaten raw as a salad ingredient.

To clean artichokes first pull off the lower petals until only the pale tender ones remain. Then peel and shorten the stems leaving about 5 cm (2 inches). Using a sharp knife, cut off at least 1 cm (1/2 inch) of the top of the the artichoke and trim the sides in a conical shape to remove all the dark green fibrous parts.

artichoke trimmed in a conical shape

artichoke trimmed in a conical shape

Cut artichoke lengthwise into 8 wedges and remove the fuzzy choke and some more fibrous tips using a small pairing knife. Make sure to work quickly otherwise the artichokes will darken.

remove choke and cut into wedges

remove choke and cut into wedges

Prepare a bowl of acidulated water with the lemon juice. As soon as the artichoke wedges are ready,  transfer them into the bowl to preserve color.

keep cleaned artichokes in acidulated water

keep cleaned artichokes in acidulated water

Drain artichokes with a colander and pat dry. In a resealable plastic bag mix the flour and artichokes and shake to coat all of the wedges.  Remove from the bag,  shake off excess flour and deep fry in plenty hot oil until pale golden.

crunchy outside, tender inside, the taste of fried artichokes is unforgettable

crunchy outside, tender inside, the taste of fried artichokes is unforgettable

Drain well on paper towels and season with salt. Serve immediately as part of a mixed appetizer for 4.

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