Artichokes are common in Roman Jewish cuisine, particularly the all-time favorite Carciofi alla giudìa, which is deep-fried artichoke. This vegetable is harvested in the coastal areas north west of Rome from February to April.
If you are not used to cooking, much less eating this vegetable, it can be a bit puzzling. The portion of the plant that is edible is the flower buds before they bloom. Once they bloom, they become coarse and not suited for consumption.
Since it is a seasonal vegetable, there is abundance of it during its budding months, and you can go ahead stock up on your supply for use even after season. While this vegetable does not easily spoil, it is best to preserve its quality by vacuum sealing it inside food-grade vacuum bags. Before you put the artichokes in the bag, as they have uneven edges, it is best to wrap them with paper towels. You may then vacuum seal using a vacuum sealer. Read best vacuum sealer reviews 2016 for more information.
The flavors and the freshness are preserved up to 2 years. But you don’t really that long, because months after it is out of season, it will be harvest time again, and more artichokes may be enjoyed.
The artichoke in its entirety is a healthy and delicious vegetable, and can be prepared a million ways. But the heart is the treasure inside the artichoke. It is sweet, tender, with a nutty-flavor and when cooked, it tastes creamy. The heart is found in the center of the artichoke. It takes some effort to remove them so you can do the easiest trick and buy them in jars, in cans or frozen. Yes, just the hearts.
Some like to sauté them in olive oil and season with red pepper flakes and garlic. You can mix them with other vegetables, especially in a salad. Try roasted artichoke bisque, which is a soup with smooth, rich and creamy artichoke flavor.
For snacks, you can mix with batter or breading and deep-fry. It is crispy outside and creamy inside.
BUYING AND STORING ARTICHOKES
These vegetables may be bought from your favorite grocer. Here are some buying tips:
- Choose the ones with petals that are closed. These would be more tender and more fresh;
- Choose the ones that look ‘burned with frost’ or with some ice on it, because they are tender and more delicious;
- Fresh ones are heavier and more solid, while the lighter ones are old stocks;
- Leaves are thick, tightly-knit and in a vibrant shade of green;
- Rub the leaves together and it would make a squeaking sound;
- Smaller artichokes are sweeter and more tender so choose those;
- The larger artichokes have larger hearts, the sweetest part of the vegetable;
- There are also baby artichokes which are sweet and tender, and easier to prepare than the adult ones.
After buying, here is how you store them:
- In the refrigerator, they can store up to a week;
- If vacuum sealed, they can store up to 2 years;
- Clean before storing;
- Rinse it under cold running water to remove the dirt between the leaves;
- In a bowl, put cold water with lemon juice mixed in;
- Cut off the stems if you don’t plan to use it;
- Otherwise, you can trim and peel the stems;
- Remove 1 inch from the top of the artichoke;
- Remove the dry leaves;
- Trim off half an inch from the thorny tips of the leaves;
- If you are going to steam or stuff the artichoke, keep it whole;
- If you are frying it, you can cut it in half lengthwise;
- Remove the ‘choke’, which are the white and purple leaves with the hairy filaments near it. It cannot be ingested so make sure to remove;
- The choke may be removed by cutting the inner leaves that are sharp, found in the center. There you will find a fuzzy choke which you can remove using a paring knife or spoon;
- Return the artichoke into the water-lemon mix to prevent them from browning while you prepare other ingredients for cooking.
Artichokes are so versatile to prepare. They can be mixed with other vegetables, used in soups or as with the all-time favorite Carciofi alla giudìa, it can be deep-fried to be crispy outside and creamy inside.