Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter Flower


Carciofo

Artichokes, one of my favorite winter vegetables, so underestimated and left to wither and look forlorn in supermarkets here. The distinct flavor is complex and can be described in the same way a fine wine can be, maybe the one food I can describe as having a finish, a lasting flavor once you have finished chewing and swallowing the little green leaf. 
This Renaissance adored vegetable can be eaten in a myriad of ways here is one of my favorites, exalting it's refined flavor without masking it:

Carciofi alla Romana
Roman Artichokes

4 medium artichokes rounded tops of leaves not spiky 
5 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
salt
2 smashed garlic cloves
mint, rosemary, bay leaf,  
water to cover

Cut off the tops of each artichoke and begin to spread or gently coax open the inside of each one using your thumbs, like gently opening a flower. Cut away the woody part of the stalk but for gods sake don't cut off the stem it's more of the heart, same amazing flavor! Cut back the woody parts of each leaf
Rub salt into the bottoms of each choke and place upside down in a tightly, so they don't roll over, pot. 



Add oil, should cover  1 to 1 1/2 inches up each choke, herbs and garlic. Saute until you can just begin to smell the aroma of the garlic and then add water up to the base of the stems. Let cook covered on medium low flame until the stems are tender, uncover and cook down the rest of the water until what remains is just lovely flavored oil and perfectly cooked artichokes.
The varieties that are sold here often have woody leaves and cannot be eaten in their entirety but I assure you the flavors are just as exquisite even if scraping the flesh from the inside of each leaf is how they have to be eaten.