8 small, young artichokes
2 eggs, beaten with pinch of salt
1/2 cup flour
Oil for frying
Clean artichokes. Place in a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent turning black. Remove from water, dry, and place in a bowl. Add the beaten eggs and salt. Stir to cover well. Add flour to artichokes and mix well. Place one by one in hot oil. Fry until golden. Season with salt and serve with lemon wedges.
adore shopping at Leo Piazzesi's stand in the Mercato Centrale. He carries only a few products, all displayed as if at Tiffany's, each tomato shining, melons cut open for tasting, their profume calling out "Assaggiami...taste me" and the season's best.
Right now, I go to Leo for carciofi, artichokes, layed out like rare flowers on a pine needle bed. Leo is my Artichoke Maestro. He carries a large variety of artichokes and has taught me how each one should be prepared.
Some are to be eaten raw, in pinzimonio (the finest olive oil, salt, pepper), as he trims them for me to taste. Raw artichokes taste like the best Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, so it is easy to understand why all you need to do is dip the artichokes into oil with a pinch of salt to make them sing! Try carpaccio di carciofi, slicing them thinly and topping with lemon juice, olive oil, and shaved Parmesan cheese.
Stewed artichokes with garlic and cherry tomatoes are fabulous on their own, as pasta sauce, or served with grilled fish. My own addition is grated orange zest and a splash of orange juice at the end, adding a rich contrast to the already wonderful dish.
Tuscans are the best at frying and carciofi fritti, fried artichokes, are always a favorite (see left recipe and photos). The crisp batter around the tender artichokes, cut into tiny bite-size pieces, are a reward for the time-consuming art of cleaning an artichoke.
The frittata di carciofi takes some mastering. The flipping of the frittata is usually left to the hands of a Mamma or Nonna with years of experience, but even an oven-baked frittata is easy enough for beginners.
But the recipe which takes the most time and patience, taught to me by Leo years ago, are his marinated artichoke hearts--carciofi sott'olio.
This recipe calls for the last of the artichokes and the smallest.
Each year I do about 350 and put them away for several months, sharing only with the best of friends.
Here is Leo's recipe for carciofi sott'olio. Perhaps if you are lucky you will find your own maestro!
(Marinated Artichoke Hearts)
Clean the tiny artichokes by removing the thick harder leaves until you arrive at the delicate light green center.
Slice off the pointy top. Now you have a artichoke heart!
Trim away any tough stem on the bottom and around the base of the heart.
Mix 2 tablespoons of fine sea salt in 1 liter of red wine vinegar.
Add the cleaned artichokes to the vinegar and let sit for one or two days, until pickled.
Drain the artichokes and turn cut side down. Don't do this on a marble table as vinegar will ruin the marble.
Let sit for a day.
Place the artichokes into glass jars and cover with olive oil. Push down to release any air bubbles and seal.
To be sure you won't kill anyone, sterilize the sealed jars in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Let sit 3 months before serving.
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