What’s Cooking Wednesday: Carciofi/Artichokes

Calabrian artichoke on FlickrOne of my favorite food discoveries here in southern Italy has been the artichoke. Yes, I had eaten them a few times in the States, but, while tasty enough, they just weren’t something I sought out.

Now I very much look forward to artichokes appearing at the market, which they are starting to do now, and I’d like to tell you about them for this week’s What’s Cooking Wednesday.

These flowers of a silvery-leafed plant can be quite a bit of work depending on how you prepare them, but before we get to my favorite artichoke recipe, let’s talk more about the ‘chokes.

Carciofi on FlickrHistory of Artichokes

Carciofi originated in Sicily, where they grow wild, as they do in Calabria, and *wow* are those good!

In the 15th century, Napolitans cultivated them, and artichokes soon made their way to the Medici dinner table in Florence, where they were an instant favorite.

Choosing, Buying, and Storing Artichokes

You want artichokes that have tightly packed leaves and healthy, colorful tips–if they’re browning, that ‘choke is on its way out. If you can get them still attached to the stem, do so, as they’ll stay fresh longer (you can also peel, cook, and eat the stems as well).

To store artichokes with stems, put them in a vase with water like a flower arrangement–move over Martha Stewart! Look at my Artichoke Centerpiece!

If you can’t get them with stems, wrap the artichokes in plastic wrap and keep them in your crisper. They should last a couple days, but do try to use them as quickly as possible.

Artichokes in water with lemon on FlickrCleaning Artichokes

Regardless of how you’ll cook them, the procedure for cleaning artichokes is the same. Snap off the stalk and tear off tough, outer leaves. Rub them with lemon to avoid discoloration and/or put them in a bowl with lemon slices.

You’ll then have to boil them, either whole or in wedges for about 30 minutes for large artichokes or 15 minutes or so for smaller ones.

Be sure to remove the hairy choke inside before serving or stuffing.

Artichoke Recipes

Artichokes can be eaten raw (the tiny, tender ones), braised with olive oil, parsley, and garlic, or stuffed with any number of fillings.

My favorite?

A great dish typical of Calabria that starts with the braising as described above and incorporates eggs, breadcrumbs, and lots of grated parmesan cheese:

Pasta with artichokes and eggs on Flickr

I’ve given you the recipe before for Pasta with Artichokes and Eggs, but you might have missed it, and I promise you, it’s too good to miss. It’s one of my all time favorite Calabrian dishes.

Do you like artichokes?

How do you prepare them?

22 Beans of Wisdom to “What’s Cooking Wednesday: Carciofi/Artichokes”
  1. I love artichokes but have never prepared them. In the States I would buy the hearts in a jar and cook with them that way.

    My favorite is to have them in a simple salad or use them to stuff large shells along with ricotta cheese, and ground turkey.

    They are just starting to pop up at the markets here. I’m going to buy a few.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Wait a minute, you can get washboard abs from plastic surgery?

    Ooh loving the stuffed shells idea….

  2. Gil

    Are the artichokes in the centerpiece wild artichokes? We had wild fennel when we were in Sicily years ago and it was so much better than what you get here in the US. I guess it must be the same for wild artichokes. Sounds delicious!

    No, those are cultivated; the wild ones are usually quite tiny, but *so* tasty!

  3. 01.28.2009

    I love artichokes, too. I think you should emphasize that people new to cleaning artichokes will probably have to eliminate a lot more of those outer leaves than they imagine. About half of the leaves get dumped. Then it’s important to cut off the tips of your wedges.

    I like to boil or steam them, then serve them with extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly squeezed lemon…delish!

    saretta’s last blog post..Fish Market, 3

    As Judith said above, she probably takes more off than P does…and so would I if I were cleaning, but yes, either way, a whole lot comes off. Sad really. Your ways to enjoy them sound great to me 🙂

  4. 01.28.2009

    i love artichokes! my mum stuffs them with a bread crumb mix with olives, anchovies, capers, garlic and fresh parsley – mmm i might need to give her a call ;o)

    Sounds great to me 🙂

  5. 01.28.2009

    I’m crazy about artichokes!!!! I would eat them non stop! I can eat them thinly cut, coated in flour and fried, boiled, steamed, grilled… They please me any way 😀
    I have many artichokes recipes in my blog, but the last discovery is: boil or bake in the oven, then pour a quail egg inside, bake until done and add some foie micuit and thick sea salt… buonissimo!!!

    Haven’t heard about your recipe though, Mmmmm Calabrian cuisine sounds super!

    Núria’s last blog post..Cargols & Conill i Romesco – Snails & Rabbit and Romesco sauce

    Ooh just in time…we just got some quails!

  6. 01.28.2009

    Got sick on them once, so you know they never made it back on the must-try-those-again list. However, I just saw Rocco DeSpirito stuff them with a breadcrumb garlic mixture and poach them in white wine. That is something I will have to try!

    Keep ya posted as to whether I like ’em- the second time around 🙂

    My Melange’s last blog post..Shrimp Scampi

    Sick on artichokes? Che scandalo! Hope you give them another shot 🙂

  7. 01.28.2009

    i also grew to love carciofi in Italy, and my favorite way to eat them there is “alla Giudea” – smashed ‘face’ down and fried in hot olive oil. Yum. My favorite way to eat them at home? Roasted hearts in a pasta dish which I’m subito going to adapt to your spaghetti recipe (also yum – like an artichoke Carbonara! Ah, Calabresi and their eggs) and make, possibly tonight. I knew when I saw your photos on Flickr the other day that today was going to be a DELICIOUS Wednesday!

    My go to method is a spinach-artichoke dip and/or spread for which I will be posting a recipe on my blog very soon (but I’m pre-empting by using the chokes I had bought for your pasta instead)! I make it frequently as a healthy sandwich spread at home or as a dip with carrot sticks for a snack, or ANY time I have to go somewhere and bring a dish. Big hit. Artichokes are the BOMB!!!!!!!!!!

    anna l’americana’s last blog post..Time’s up…..

    I *love* spinach and artichoke dip. P, of course, doesn’t get the whole dip thing, but I’m definitely going to have to make it sometime soon….

  8. 01.28.2009

    Good morning!

    I have never ventured in to cooking with artichokes. I’ve only had it in a dip .This recipe I’ll
    have to try. I made the eggplant balls before and they were yummy!!

    PS: local weather here in Philadelphia: ice rain and no schools open.


    Yuck! I hope it’s improving! I have always been a little afraid of artichokes. I’m so glad I have an OH who isn’t 😉

  9. 01.28.2009

    Add me to the list of artichoke lovers. Alla guidea is addictive – like eating potato chips. I usually make them stuffed, with a bread, garlic, parsley, stuffing.

    Ciaochowlinda’s last blog post..Le Cirque and Lucia

    Mmm love stuffed artichokes, and yes, that’s pretty much how my suocera makes them too 🙂

  10. 01.28.2009

    Ciao Cara,
    I love artichokes!
    And I made a post about you and your blog on mine ! Good luck for the bloggies 😉
    Forza Calabria!

    Grazie mille bella!

  11. 01.28.2009

    Artichokes always make me think of spring, and, on this stormy wintry day (yet another one!), seeing your beautiful purple and green artichokes floating in water with the sunshine of the sliced lemons was a refreshing sight.

    I adore artichokes and favor them served plain with lemon & olive oil and a bit of salt, although I’ve also enjoyed them stuffed with fresh breadcrumbs, chopped tomato, maybe a bit of chopped olive, parmesan, and a chiffonade of basil.

    The canned hearts, finely chopped, and mixed with mayonnaise, grated Gruyere, a bit of garlic, and as much smoked Spanish paprika or chipotle peppers as you like, then baked at 300 for about half an hour makes an extravagant, if caloric, dip.

    anno’s last blog post..Sunday Scribblings: Phantoms & Shadows

    OK now I’m hungry all over again….

  12. Christina

    As always your post is making me crave more delicious food! I love artichokes!

    I remember the first time I had a Sicilian artichoke, it was in Mineo Sicily and it was right off the bbq, packed with some parsley and drizzled wih olive oil. SO tasty! 🙂

    Christina’s last blog post..Monday Project

    YUM!!!! Sounds great!

  13. 01.28.2009

    Oh my Michelle, I can’t tell you how much I am dreamin’ of Italy and its food. We are returning in June! We love the food….

    Deb R’s last blog post..A Story Seven Months in the Making…

    Great Deb! We’ll be waiting 🙂

  14. 01.28.2009

    Yum. Carciofi alla giudia is my fave but a trip to the Roman ghetto is the only way that’s possible. Marcella Hazan’s instructions are excellent but…I prefer others to do my frying for me–it’s a public safety issue, believe me. ( Oh, I miss Italy…I’ve never been away for so long. But, a job is key, isn’t it?)

    Too icy, rainy cold here (DC-area) to venture out for anything but a newspaper but today’s post reminds me that the first teensy artichokes in the spring aren’t that far off, though it seems forever. Lovely memories of a gorgeous baby artichoke & tiny new potato stew at friend’s place near Naples.

    BTW, I finally made Louise’s banana cake today–it’s dreamy. I grew up in PA & the photos & everything (from the Louise post) remind me of those times. Thanks so much.

    BTW again: actually stopped in to say that I finally voted for in the Bloggies last evening. I urge everyone to go pretty soon. Feb. 2 (I think that’s the deadline) will be here before we know it. Now I can toss the little pink sticky note reminder on the computer.

    ciao-meow to all!

    Thanks so much for your vote and I’m glad you enjoyed that cake…I will be making one within the next few days b/c I have frozen ripe bananas just calling to me….

  15. 01.28.2009

    I love artichokes in every way, shape and form.

    My favorite preparation is very simple – steamed and dip the leaves in lemon butter, scraping off the “meat” with your teeth.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday: Why I Love Mark Bittman

    Delicious indeed 🙂

  16. 01.28.2009

    Since artichokes are basically the bud of a very large thistle flower, it stands to reason that you can keep them fresh by putting the stems in water, much like a cut flower.

    Nate’s last blog post..Thai-Inspired Caesar Salad Recipe

    Absolutely Nate 🙂

  17. Sherene

    Best way to have an artichoke – fresh and steamed. Peel the leaves off and dip in mayo. Eat the meat straight off of the leaf. You can either have the mayo plain or spice it up a little with some lemon juice and dill. Its simple and lets the natural flavor of the artichoke really take center stage. Yummy!!

    My OH loves just eating them raw (the leaves on the small, tender ‘chokes) as well…talk about artichoke flavor!

  18. Jenny

    oh my , these look good!

    I thought of you today, when I heard about the Great Tomato Celebration Recipe contest–you should totally enter:


    Jenny’s last blog post..Researching Italian Surnames

  19. 01.29.2009

    I’ve never been big on artichokes. The best ones I’ve ever had? They were in a salad a friend made. The texture, flavor, everything was perfect – delish! I think I’ll try them again, though, after reading this.

    Now, what has surprised me is that the past few years I’ve fallen in love with brussel sprouts! As a kid I’d run far away from them. Funny how things change, eh? 😉


    Go for it Michele!

  20. Julie

    I normally eat my steamed artichokes with a balsamic vinegar and mustard sauce. The sauce sounds disgusting, but actually complements the artichoke flavor very well.

    Oh that sounds great to me. Love sweet and sour!

  21. 01.29.2009

    Whoa girl! Yummer ciofi! I trim mine somewhat more I think.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Working…

    Yeah, P leaves quite a bit, but I can’t argue. They’re so dang good.

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Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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