Artichokes are my favorite vegetable, so any recipe for them always manages to thrill me, but this is the recipe I remember from my years growing up and going to school in Rome. I lived in the area around the Borghese gardens, overlooking the green treetops of the park with the cupola of St. Peter perfectly silhouetted against the most glorious sunsets imaginable. I learned to strip and clean artichokes here, sitting around a central bucket filled with cold water and cut lemons, amazed then as I am now at how much of the vegetable seems to be wasted in the long process of stripping and trimming. But the guilty feeling of all that waste evaporates the moment you start to eat them, especially when tenderly prepared as here. If you have never prepared an artichoke for braising, let me reassure you that the huge pile of detritus at the end of the process is how it should be!

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Ingredients

  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 12 artichokes
  • 12 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • a large handful of fresh mint
  • 1 small lemon, cut into small segments
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Fill a bowl large enough to hold the prepared artichokes with cold water and squeeze the juice of half a lemon into it. Place the halved lemons into the water.
  2. Prepare the artichokes by trimming the stalk and peeling away the tough outer leaves. Cut off the tops and remove the choke by scooping it out with a teaspoon. Place the hearts into the bowl of cold water.
  3. When all the artichokes are ready to cook, remove them from the water and dry them with a dish towel, then rub them all over with the quartered lemons and place them in a wide saucepan or baking pan.
  4. Place a few slices of garlic inside each artichoke and strip the leaves off the mint. Distribute the mint and the lemon inside and among the artichokes.
  5. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour over the water and oil. Cover and leave to simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until almost soft all the way through.
  6. Turn the artichokes over to help them to finish cooking and baste occasionally. Don’t let them dry out, keep adding water or white wine as necessary. Serve hot or cold.

Variation

Artichokes come in all shapes and sizes, and there are countless variations on the basic braising recipe, which mainly consist of changing the ingredients used to fill the interior of the artichoke. This is one of my favorite dishes, and one I often serve as an appetizer, either hot or cold.

“Everyone eats well in Italy. Eating well is a sign of well being, of the normal functioning of a family.”

Giorgio Locatelli, Tony and Giorgio

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