Carciofi alla giudia (artichokes jewish style)

Yield: 6 servings

Measure Ingredient
8 \N Smallish artichokes
2 \N Lemons
1 \N Small, hot red pepper, minced

For those unfamiliar with the cooking of the ancient Jewish community of Rome, this is a great introduction. Much of this cuisine is reflective of the Middle-eastern origins of the Jewish people and their role as conduits for the exchange of culture between East and West So, in the Roman-Jewish cuisine, one finds influences from as far away as India and Persia, as well as from North Africa and Spain's Sephardic/Arab culture. A book that covers the overall cuisine of Jews in Italy is appropriately named The Classic Cuisine of The Italian Jews by Edda Servi Machlin.

Extra virgin olive oil Water for sprinkling Salt Freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare a bowl of water acidulated with the juice of one lemon.

The bowl must be large enough to accommodate all the artichokes, or you may use two smaller bowls. Wash the artichokes and pull off the tough outer leaves. Slice the very tops of the remaining leaves and slip into the lemon water. Leave for ½ to 1 full hour.

2. Heat about 2-inches of olive oil to medium-low. Take 3 or 4 artichokes at a time, dry them off and gently spread the leaves with your fingers. Place each one upside down on a cutting board and push down gently but steadily so that the leaves splay out. Do not break the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and the red pepper.

3. Place artichokes headside down in the oil and begin cooking. From time to time press down on them to keep them as flat as possible without breaking the leaves off.

4. The size of your artichokes will have much to do with how fast they cook. However, after 5 to 7 minutes, turn them as best you can and cook for 3 minutes each side. Then cook 3 minutes bottom-side down.

Raise the heat to just the high side of medium and turn them upside down once more so that the artichokes begin to brown without burning.

Have on hand a long-tined fork. After this browning occurs, pierce the centers with a fork. The insides should be tender.

5. Remove from the hot oil and immediately sprinkle generously with cold water on the outside. This should make the leaves crispy and crunchy, providing the desired contrast with the soft centers. In Italian this exterior crispness is called la crosticina croccante.

Serve with lemon, salt and fresh black pepper.

Source: Journal of Italian Food & Wine

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