The last artichoke

-Have you got them?

-Not yet, but I spoke to my guy – by the time you get here, they will be in my bag

-How can you be so sure? It is not the first time he lets me down

-He said he will have them, just be patient and enjoy your flight

-does he still work at the old market? I can go pay him a visit on my way home

-it won’t be necessary, I told him they are for you and you are going to stay only a couple of days. Now enjoy your flight and I will see you later

-I hope he doesn’t make up a lame excuse like he did 4 years ago – not that I am still crossed about that, after 4 years!

-he got his truck stolen, there is a police report! Now I have to go, see you later

This might sound like an extract from an episode of “Narcos”, but it is the conversation I usually have with my mum every time I am going back to Italy. The “guy” is Giuseppe, he has a stall in the old market where he sells fruits and vegetables. I like him, he is super friendly and chatty, and he always makes sure that those 2 or 3 times a year I go to visit my family in Italy he can feed my obsession: artichokes.

I love artichokes. I love the flavour, the texture, the colour, literally everything about them.

Now, picture this: first week in the UK, I go grocery shopping. I am quite pleased to find most of the common brands we use in Italy, from pasta to chocolate. Fruits and vegetables seem alright, I can actually find some products I never tried before, life is good.

Strangely enough, I don’t see artichokes. Naively, I just think that maybe they are not in season at the moment, and I move on with my life.

As the months go by, I see all sorts of produce on the shelves, but still no trace of artichokes. I decide to visit different stores, but no sign of my green gold. Time for my friend Mr Google, which I am sure will help me in my research. But what Mr Google returned was a blog post, written by an Italian in the UK, explaining that inexplicably he never found artichokes in the UK.

The horror.

Year after year, I gave up looking for them in here, but I always made sure that in Italy I would eat ALL the artichokes – and Giuseppe helped me in my mission.

January 2021, UK: An unimpressed with life parmigianawhisperer walks the veggies aisle in the usual grocery shop – but something is different. Let’s have a look; onions are there, tomatoes are there, oh yes I see – they moved the broccoli on the right corner. I wonder what has taken their place, but if there is something I learnt over the 33 years on this unforgiving world, is that hope is the first step towards disappointment, so I just keep walking around the aisle to get my shopping. But, as Ulysses in the sirens, the left aisle calls my name, and I can only follow those irresistible chants, my heart racing and my mind already wandering in a field of artichokes, all singing “eat me, I am delicious”. I just give a quick peek, and here they are. My beauties. My precious.

On the way home, a video call with the family is needed – an event of such importance has to be shared in all its greatness, so the call starts with my bouquet of artichokes covering my face, and me behind shouting “LIFE IS SWEEEEET”. After realising that I never cooked them before for obvious reasons, the video call continued in my kitchen, where the camera was pointed towards the artichokes and my unexperienced hands – trying to peel and cut them properly in order to not waste my tresure.

I love artichokes. I love them, no matter how they are cooked, but I feel that the best way to enjoy them is a tortiera, a sort of gratin very popular in Sicily and the South of Italy. There are several ways to make a tortiera, but my favourite is the simplest version: oil, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Some families prefer to add a lay of mozzarella and ham between the artichokes, some others like to add eggs, but for me the best tortiera is minimal, to enjoy the nutty and bitter taste of the artichokes.

So here is my family recipe for 4 servings:

-artichokes, 4

-breadcrumbs,120g

-olive oil, 6 tablespoons

-parsley, 8 leaves

-garlic clove, 1

-parmesan cheese, 6 tablespoons

-salt

To prepare before cooking:

-half a lemon

Steps:

1.Squeeze the half lemon in a bowl, and add enough water to fill half the bowl

2. Peel well the artichokes and cut them in 1/4

3.Put the artichokes in the bowl for 20 minutes

4.Fill a pan with salted water and bring it to boil

5.Rinse well the artichokes, and put them in the boiling water

6.Let it cook for 30 minutes or more, pierce the artichokes with a fork and if they are tender they are done

7.Place the artichokes in a colander and let them drain until cool

8.In the meantime, mix together the breadcrumbs, olive oil, chopped parsley, chopped garlic and 2 tablespoons of parmesan

9.Squeeze the artichokes with your hands

10. Grease a pan with oil, take half of the breadcrumbs and spread them on the pan

11. take half of the artichokes and spread them evenly over the layer of breadcrumbs

12. Spread the remaining 4 tablespoons of grated parmesan on the artichokes

13.Take the rest of the artichokes and form another layer

14.Spread the other half of the breadcrumbs evenly on top of the artichokes

15.Cook it at slow temperature for 6/7 minutes, then using a plate turn it on the other side and let it cook for 6/7 minutes; repeat the operation (for less minutes) until golden

#cooking

46 Comments Leave a comment

  1. They’re very popular in California also. The central valley is an ideal growing area.
    It’s an old family fable about my grandfather’s family coming from Texas to visit (well before my time), and being served an artichoke at the restaurant. At which point, one of them loudly pronounced “What the hell is THAT?!?”. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Can definitely empathize with that! Artichokes are the best, but it’s also not as easy to get them here. And many times even the rare ones they have at the store are far from fresh. But once in a while they’re good enough to cook, and then it’s a celebration. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I, too, love artichokes! My favorite way is simply boiling them whole and eating them leaf by leaf dipped in butter. The hearts, of course, are the most delicious part. I am lucky to have grown up with them since childhood. I wonder why it was so hard to find in the UK? I have also eaten them stuffed, or added the hearts to salads, but I still want to learn to cook them the Italian way. I love seeing pictures of the markets there and hearing about the artichoke festivals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love them stuffed or with pasta, I never had them just boiled with butter but sounds delicious!I don’t know why they were so hard to find in the UK, but I have been to the shops 3 times in the last few weeks and they were always available! yaaay!!

      Like

  4. Ah, how I love artichokes! This recipe sounds wonderful – will definitely give it a go. I can still remember my mother coming home from the grocery store with her fresh artichokes. She would lovingly snip off the prickly points and any unappealing outer leaves, then cut about 1/4 inch off the top of each artichoke. Then with all the power she could muster she would take each artichoke one at a time and bang the top against the corner of the kitchen counter, just enough to sufficiently spread open the leaves. Then she would stuff them with her famous combination of breadcrumbs, parsley, grated cheese, garlic, olive oil and s&p. Into the pressure cooker they would go where they would lovingly cook for hours, becoming tender enough for even the littlest of hands to pull off one leaf at a time and scrape off the deliciousness of the breadcrumbs with our teeth. We would remove one leaf at a time and scrape off the goodness until we got to the heart. Oh, what rapture! What joy! Removing any choke, we would pop the heart into our mouths, savoring every last indescribably magnificent taste. It was heaven! It was also a lot of work and I can remember my mom having tiny cuts on her fingers from stuffing those artichokes. She didn’t mind, though. It was a labor of culinary love for her family and we relished everything that came out of her magical kitchen. How I miss those days of my youth. 🌟

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Never had them like that. Artichokes are are a favourite with me. I kind of follow your recipe but I add eggs to the mixture and chopped shallots. I stuff the artichoke and pour olive oil and lemon over them and cook in the oven. Or I stuff them with a mince mixture. I’m in Aussie and finding them is seasonal but I do find them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love artichokes and grow them in my garden because it’s so difficult to find them in the shops here in the UK. Do you just use the hearts for this recipe? Or do you boil whole and use the leaves too. I don’t quite get how it works. Sorry for being slow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your message, you are so lucky to have them in your garden!!Please don’t apologise, I did struggle as well the first time as I wasn’t sure what to do πŸ™‚ I remove the first layers until I can see light green and no purple anymore – I suggest to touch the layers until you don’t feel anymore a rough/hard surface! I hope this helps πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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