The quest for the perfect (Jewish) artichoke

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Whenever I see artichokes at the market, I immediately think of Italy. I have never had better artichoke dishes than while in Rome and Venice, particularly while in the historical Jewish ghetto districts of both cities where artichokes, in season, are treated and prepared in the most delicious ways imaginable.

This past week I made my first ever trip to Wegmans in Cherry Hill – an adventure in and of itself. One of my best finds on this trip were some beautifully fresh, tender and delicate young artichokes – the perfect kind to try preparing in some traditional Jewish-Italian ways.

My first batch came out perfectly in the Roman way, slow-cooked in broth and olive oil following a traditional recipe from Primi Piatti: Italian First Courses That Make a Meal. I regret I didn’t get a photo of the dish at the time, even though I did photograph the lovely Shrimp with Capers and Tomatoes from the same cookbook I made that evening. They were both fabulous and this is quickly becoming one of my favorite unique Italian cookbooks.

Shrimp with Capers and Tomatoes

Shrimp with Capers and Tomatoes

However, the next day I wanted to try something different, following a recipe from a new cookbook I just bought and am drooling over, Cicchetti: Delicious Italian Food to Share. This book promises a fabulous assortment of traditional Venetian cicchetti dishes as well as small bites and plates from all around Italy. I wanted to try this book’s recipe for Venetian artichokes, “Jewish-style” which are lightly battered and fried.

So I started with these beautiful perfect baby artichokes…

Baby artichokes

Trimmed and quartered them, and then mixed in with the light batter to coat…

Battered artichokes

And then fried them quickly in super-hot oil, to be served with lemon wedges.

Fried artichokes

These were delicious beyond belief. I wouldn’t try to make this dish unless I had the best, tender baby artichokes available. But I’m looking forward to trying to make them for my mom this coming week if I can get another batch of these artichokes in time. And, I can’t wait to try more recipes from “Cicchetti: Delicious Italian Food to Share” based on how great this one turned out!

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