Artichokes, named carciofi in Italy, are edible flowers belonging to the thistle family. They are as iconic of Italy as the Colosseum, the cliffs of Positano, pizza and – of course – a ride in a FIAT 500. To my knowledge, there is no other place where you can taste so many varieties of artichokes in such a diversity of delicious preparations.
Our passion for the magnificent flower is solidly founded on an average yearly consumption of 8 kg (about 18 lbs) of artichokes per capita. Italy is the world’s top producer with about 500,000 metric tons of artichokes in about 90 cultivars. We just can’t have enough of them.
If you live in an area where artichokes are available and you have never cooked with them, you are in for a treat. Artichokes are among the most versatile and interesting vegetables. Their intense herbal flavor, the perfect balance between bitter and sweet, and the buttery texture make them a unique delicacy in the vegetable world.
This specific artichoke and lemon salad comes from and old cookbook, The River Cafè which I have discovered it years ago and have treasured it ever since.
- 4 organic lemons
- 100 g (3 oz) salt to cook the 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. (3 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 into 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.