The artichoke is a perennial vegetable in the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean region. The artichoke that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. There are more than 140 artichoke varieties but less than 40 are grown commercially. Spring is the peak season and most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop.
How To Buy Artichokes
Select artichoke globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage. To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do not wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.
How To Prepare Artichokes
Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off the lower petals and cut off the bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully) to scoop out the choke. Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.
How To Cook Artichokes
Stand up the prepared artichoke in a deep saucepan or pot with 3-inches boiling water (if desired, oil, lemon juice and/or seasonings can be added to cooking water). Cover with a lid and gently boil approximately 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size of the artichokes, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily. When done cooking, remove from the pot and stand artichoke upside down on a rack to drain.
Place prepared artichoke on a rack above 1- to 2-inches of boiling water. Cover and steam approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily.
Baby artichokes are not a separate variety but merely smaller versions of larger artichokes. Their size comes from their location on the artichoke plant. They are picked from the lower parts of the artichoke plant where the plant fronds protect them from sun, in effect stunting their growth.
Small artichokes, which are being shipped fresh more frequently today, make a savory appetizer, salad or vegetable accompaniment when marinated, either whole or cut lengthwise in halves. They are also delicious in poultry, beef, pork or lamb stews.
Baby artichokes are sold in plastic bags or containers or loose. Their size can vary from walnut to jumbo egg size. Size is no indication of age. (Some babies are bigger than other babies!) Choose baby artichokes that are firm and heavy for their size. Most do not have a fuzzy choke.
Bend back lower, outer petals of artichokes until they snap off easily near base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom).
Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
Halve or quarter as desired. If center petals are purple or pink remove center petals and fuzzy centers. Dip or rub all surfaces with lemon juice.
Preparing fresh artichokes for cooking can be intimidating. Luckily, preserved versions of this spring vegetable are just as delicious. Here are a few ways to use artichokes, whether fresh, jarred or frozen.
Whole. Steaming whole artichokes to serve with butter or mayonnaise mixed with capers, lemon and smoked paprika. Or, stuff them with your favorite stuffing mix.
Sauteed. When cooked, the leaves on trimmed fresh artichokes fan out and get crisp.
Grilled. Boil trimmed artichokes until tender, then finish them on the grill to give them a smoky flavor.
Pasta sauce. Simmer oil-packed artichokes in cream, then puree for a luxurious pasta sauce.
Bread pudding. Layer marinated artichokes with sourdough cubes and cheese, then cover with eggs and milk and bake for a savory brunch dish.
Dip. Instead of the usual cream cheese base, use Greek yogurt and silken tofu in a healthy version of creamy artichoke dip.
Involtini. Roll up marinated artichoke hearts with celery leaves in smoked salmon for a super healthy hors d’oeuvres.
Pizza. Marinate frozen artichoke hearts in herbed olive oil and add them to a white pizza or a pizza with the works.
Sautéed Artichokes and Potatoes
- 8 artichokes (they should be firm and feel solid)
- Juice of a half a lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- Salt to taste
- 3 pounds baby potatoes
- A bunch parsley, minced
- Pepper to taste
If the potatoes are young and thin skinned, wash and rub them with a rough cloth. Otherwise, peel them and cut in half.
Trim the tough outer leaves off the artichokes, cut the tops off (perpendicular to the length of the artichoke) and cut them into eighths, putting the slices into water acidulated with lemon juice to keep them from turning black.
When you have finished cutting them up, pat them dry and sauté them in a large skillet with a cover with the oil, garlic, salt and minced parsley. Begin over a low heat, covered, and after a little while uncover them and turn them often so they cook well on all sides, browning and almost coming apart. Remove the artichokes with a slotted spoon to another bowl and set aside.
Add the potatoes with a half cup of water to the skillet. Let them cook gently at first, covering the pot so that they soften, and then raise the heat and uncover them to brown them.
Once the potatoes have browned, add the artichokes together with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about ten minutes over a very low flame.
Grilled Baby Artichokes
- Lemon Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
- 12 baby artichokes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Prepare the Lemon Vinaigrette; set aside until ready to use.
Bend back lower, outer petals of the artichokes until they snap off easily near the base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom). Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add prepared baby artichokes and cook approximately 7 to 10 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork, but they still offer some resistance. Drain and immediately and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking.
When cool, cut the baby artichokes in half lengthwise, sprinkle them with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare an outdoor grill. Place the artichokes cut side down on oiled grill grates, cover with the grill lid, and cook over a medium-hot fire, for about 5 minutes, or until the cut sides are well browned. Remove the artichokes to a bowl and pour the Lemon Vinaigrette over the grilled artichokes and toss.
This can be served right away, but it is much better to let them sit for an hour or so in the vinaigrette for the flavors to mingle. They will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 3 days. .
Makes 4 servings.
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped pitted black olives
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, olives and pepper. Whisk together well.
Artichoke Cheese Pizzas
This is one of our favorite pizzas. Since I use convenient frozen artichoke hearts, this recipe can be made any time of the year.
- One 9 ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained, cut in half
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- One homemade or store-bought pizza dough
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese
- Freshly ground pepper
In a large skillet, combine the artichoke hearts with the olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic and thyme leaves. Season with salt. Cook until the artichokes are soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Dust a pizza pan with cornmeal and stretch dough to fit the pan.
Spread the ricotta cheese over the dough and sprinkle the fontina and mozzarella cheese over the ricotta.
Distribute the cooked artichoke hearts and sauce over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and place the pizza to the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are browned. Serve hot.
This is my favorite way to stuff artichokes.
For 2-double ingredients for 4
- 1 lemon
- 2 medium artichokes
- 1 1/4 cups plain panko crumbs
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, reserve the stems
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 minced garlic cloves, divided
- 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
- 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Half small onion sliced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill a bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon into the water and reserve the lemon shell. Cut off the artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with lemon shell (this prevents browning) and drop them into the lemon water.
Use a heavy, sharp stainless steel knife to cut the top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon to scoop out the choke.
Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub the lemon shell over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
To prepare stuffing:
In a large bowl combine the panko crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, half the garlic, capers, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss.
In a small roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the artichokes, scatter onion slices, artichoke stems, parsley sprigs and remaining garlic.
Holding artichokes over the stuffing bowl, stuff each choke cavity and in between the leaves with the bread crumb mixture.
Stand stuffed artichokes upright in the baking dish and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.
Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 of the way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt to the water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.
Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should be easily inserted into the artichoke and a leaf should be easily pulled out.
Halibut with Braised Artichokes, Fennel and Lemon
- 2 lemons
- 1 9 oz package frozen artichokes, defrosted
- 1 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed or ground
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating fish
- 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 halibut fillets or any white firm fish (each about 6 ounces and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
- Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon crosswise into very thin slices.
Put onion, fennel, artichokes, coriander, reserved lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoons salt, 4 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan.
Cover pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.
Combine flour with remaining salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge fish in flour.
In the same pan heat the remaining tablespoon oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook fillets, without moving them, until the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes.
Carefully turn the fish and cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more. Return artichoke mixture to the pan and warm a minute or two.
To serve: spoon 1/2 cup of the artichoke mixture onto each serving plate and top with a fish fillet. Garnish with basil.
- Stuffed Artichokes – Yum! (mommyhealthiest.wordpress.com)
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- Italian food, wine and typical recipes: the Sinis traditional cuisine “spiky artichokes and mullet Bottarga” (tipstogo.wordpress.com)
“According to an Aegean legend and praised in song by the poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, the first artichoke was a lovely young girl who lived on the island of Zinari. The god, Zeus was visiting his brother Poseidon one day when, as he emerged from the sea, he spied a beautiful young mortal woman. She did not seem frightened by the presence of a god, and Zeus seized the opportunity to seduce her. He was so pleased with the girl, whose name was Cynara, that he decided to make her a goddess, so that she could be nearer to his home on Olympia. Cynara agreed to the promotion, and Zeus anticipated the trysts to come, whenever his wife Hera was away. However, Cynara soon missed her mother and grew homesick. She snuck back to the world of mortals for a brief visit. After she returned, Zeus discovered this un-goddess-like behavior. Enraged, he hurled her back to earth and transformed her into the plant we know as the artichoke.”
The Sensuous Artichoke, by A. C. Castelli and C. A. Catelli, published by A. C. Castelli Assoc., 1998.
A Little History:
Beginning about 800 A.D., North African Moors begin cultivating artichokes in the area of Granada, Spain, and another Arab group, the Saracens, became identified with artichokes in Sicily. This may explain why the English word artichoke is derived from the Arab, “al’qarshuf” rather than from the Latin, “cynara.” Between 800 and 1500, the artichoke was improved and transformed, perhaps in monastery gardens, into the plant we would recognize today.
Artichokes were first cultivated in Naples around the middle of the 15th century and gradually spread to other sections of Europe. After Rome fell, artichokes became scarce but re-emerged during the Renaissance in 1466 when the Strozzi family brought them from Florence to Naples.
In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici, married to King Henry II, is credited with making artichokes famous. She is said to have introduced them to France when she married. They were later brought to Louisiana by French colonists and to California in the Monterey area by the Spaniards in the late 1800’s.
In 1922 Andrew Molera, a landowner in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California, just south of San Francisco, decided to lease his land, previously dedicated to the growing of sugar beets, to Italian farmers that he encouraged to try growing the “new” vegetable. His reasons were economic, as artichokes were selling at high prices and farmers could pay Molera triple what the sugar company did for the same land.
In Italy, artichokes (carciofi) are served in a myriad of forms and preparations—fried, baked, braised, boiled and frittatas. Sometimes the same recipe can be served as an antipasto, a side dish (called a “contorno” in Italian) or as a first course (the “primo”)—for example, Carciofi al forno con patate, which is a combination of roasted artichokes and potatoes. For main dishes artichokes go very well with roasted meat or fish; they are also used as a main ingredient in pasta sauces and risotto. Carciofi gratinati (baked artichokes with melted cheese and breadcrumbs) is a typical dish in many parts of the central southern regions of Italy. Artichokes are often combined with other ingredients like cheese, ground meat and béchamel, and then baked. One of the most popular artichoke dishes comes from an old Roman Jewish recipe, called Carciofi alla Giudea, in which the artichokes are deep fried and served with lemon.
Types of Artichokes
Fresh: Artichokes should be firm and heavy for their size, with the outer leaves just beginning to open. Store unwashed, sprinkled with water and refrigerated in airtight bags for up to a week.
Canned: Artichoke hearts in cans are usually packed in brine. Their soft texture makes them ideal for creamy dips and casseroles. Rinse and pat dry before using to remove any excess salt.
Marinated: Hearts marinated in oil and dried herbs (like oregano and thyme) have a strong flavor. Use them in a recipe only if specifically called for, as they can overpower a dish. They can be used in salads, or as a pizza topping or added to a sandwich.
Frozen: Artichoke hearts from the freezer case are the healthiest option after fresh as they have no added calories or fat. They’re only partially cooked, so they keep their texture better than canned or jarred when they’re roasted or sautéed. Thaw and pat dry before using to avoid ending up with too much liquid in your dish.
Personally, I only use fresh or frozen artichokes because I do not care for the additional ingredients in the canned and marinated products. I can easily make marinated artichoke hearts with the frozen product by defrosting the artichoke hearts and dressing them with my own fresh dressing. (See recipe below) No additional preservatives here. They are also a great, healthy convenience food. Traditional cooks make their own artichoke hearts by trimming fresh artichokes down to the heart but this is a very time consuming preparation.
How To Select Artichokes
Choose globes that are dark green, heavy, and have “tight” leaves. Don’t select globes that are dry looking or appear to be turning brown. If the leaves appear too “open” then the choke is past its prime. You can still eat them, but the leaves may be tough. (Don’t throw these away. They can be used for artichoke soup). Artichokes are available throughout the year with the peak season being from March to May and a smaller crop in October. It is best to use them within 4 days of purchase.
How To Eat an Artichoke:
Pull each leaf off the choke and hold the pointed end between your fingers and drag the leaf between your teeth. Most of the edible portion is on inside bottom 1/3 of the choke leaf. When you serve artichokes, put a bowl on the table for the discarded leaves. Once you’ve eaten all the leaves you’ll see the heart or flower of the choke. The rest of the base of the choke is edible, referred to as the heart.
How To Clean and Prepare Artichokes For Stuffing
1. Before doing any trimming, wash the artichoke thoroughly. Hold the artichoke under cold running water. Rinse in between the leaves without pulling on them. Turn the artichoke upside down (stem side up) and give a good shake. Dry the artichoke with a clean towel.
2. Cut off the stem and pull off lower petals which are small or discolored.
3. Cut stems close to the base. Use a stainless knife to prevent discoloration.
4. Cut off the top 1 1/2″ to 2″ of the artichoke. This is where the leaves are most tightly bunched.
5. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut off the sharp points from the leaves.
6. Open up the artichoke so that you can see the purple-topped leaves. Pull out the purple leaves. Use a serrated spoon to scrape the fuzzy choke out of the artichoke heart:
7. After you have scraped out as much as you can, rinse the artichoke well and either rub it with lemon juice or dip it in a combination of lemon and water to keep the cut edges from becoming brown.
8. Stuff the artichoke leaves right over the bowl. Starting at the bottom, working your way up and around until you get to the top, tighter leaves. Gently pull out each leaf and use your hand to scoop some of the mixture into the leaf.
Stuffed artichokes ready for baking.
How To Make Homemade Marinated Artichoke Hearts
- 1 9-oz. box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Rinse artichoke hearts under cold water. Combine artichokes, oil, salt, thyme, oregano, and pepper flakes in a 1-qt. saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, 10 minutes.
2. Let cool to room temperature and stir in lemon juice. Serve or refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.
Stuffed Artichokes With Lemon Zest, Rosemary and Garlic
This makes a wonderful appetizer that can be prepared in advance.
- 1 1/2 lemons, zested, then halved
- 4 large globe artichokes (about 12 ounces each before trimming)
- 2 1/4 cups Italian bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus 4 whole sprigs
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped capers
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze juice from the two lemon halves into water. Cut off artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with remaining lemon half (this prevents browning) and drop them into water.
Use a heavy, sharp stainless knife to cut the top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out the pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where the leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well) to scoop out choke.
Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim the pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub a lemon half over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
To prepare stuffing: in a large bowl combine lemon zest, bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley and rosemary. Mince 6 garlic cloves and add to the bowl. Add capers, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss.
In a small roasting pan or baking pan large enough to hold the artichokes, scatter onion slices. Add reserved artichoke stems, 4 sprigs parsley and remaining garlic cloves.
Holding artichokes over the stuffing bowl, stuff choke cavity and in between the leaves with bread crumb mixture. Stand stuffed artichokes upright in pan and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.
Fill the baking pan with water until it reaches 1/4 way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt and pepper to water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil. Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should slide easily into an artichoke and a leaf should pull out easily.
Yield: 4 servings.
Spinach Fettuccine with Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
- 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato olive oil from the jar
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 -9 oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 pound fresh spinach fettuccine, cooked and drained (1/4 cup pasta water reserved), use dried if fresh is not available
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender. Add artichokes, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook until artichokes are tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Add wine and simmer until just thickened. Stir in reserved 1/4 cup pasta water, sun-dried tomatoes and thyme; then add pasta, salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer pasta to bowls, garnish with cheese and serve.
Fish Fillets with Potatoes and Artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
- 1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 cups)
- 4 teaspoons sliced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oi, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fish stock
- Four 6-8 ounce bass, snapper, cod or grouper fillets
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
In a large bowl combine the artichokes, potatoes, garlic, rosemary, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat.
Place the potato mixture in a large ovenproof baking dish, add the fish stock, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Spoon out a quarter of the vegetables into a bowl. Reserve.
Season the fish with salt and pepper and rub the fillets with the remaining olive oil. Arrange the fillets on the potato and artichoke mixture and add the wine. Cover the fish with the reserved potato mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.
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Potatoes originally came from South America specifically from the Andes mountains and they were brought to Europe by early Spanish explorers. In 1565, Spain’s King Philip II is said to have sen a gift of potato tubers for Pope Pius IV in Rome, who passed samples on to a cardinal in Belgium. Along with the tubers went their Italian name – tartufoli- and the samples were disseminated throughout Europe. Wherever the potato was introduced, it was considered weird, poisonous, and downright evil.
European immigrants introduced potatoes to North America several times throughout the 1600s, but they were not widely grown for almost a century. Not until 1719, when Irish immigrants brought the potato to Londonderry, New Hampshire, were potatoes grown on a large scale. Again, potatoes were slow to gain popularity. Even when they became the second largest food crop in America, they were still used primarily as animal fodder.
Although the potato – called patata by modern Italians – was a staple food for generations of rural families, potato growing in Italy has been declining since the 1960’s. Large areas of land are unsuitable for potato growing and have since been abandoned. Pasta-loving Italy has one of the lowest levels of potato consumption in Europe. They do not use sweet potatoes in Italy, but pumpkin is a favorite ingredient for a number of dishes, including ravioli and soups. Marcella Hazan notes in her book that she could not get the right textured pumpkin here in America, but found that the orange-fleshed sweet potato came the closest.
In Italian cuisine, potatoes are used as a complement to other ingredients in a dish, such as soups, frittatas, stews or salads or baked alongside fish or chicken.They are a nutrient filled vegetable despite their carbohydrate level.
It is a misconception, though, that they only contain carbohydrates and calories! Potatoes are also a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, manganese, copper, vitamin B6 and dietary fiber. If consumed in the right form and with moderation, potatoes can make for a very healthy, high fiber vegetable choice.
Artichoke and Potato Salad
You can substitute 1 pound green beans for the artichokes as an alternative.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1/4 cup green onion or red onion (thinly sliced)
- 1/2 cup italian parsley (fresh, chopped)
- 2 tablespoons capers (drained)
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- Salt to taste
- black pepper (fresh cracked, to taste)
- 2 lbs red potato (scrubbed, unpeeled and cut in half)
- 1-10 oz package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
- Garnish with olives, optional
In a large bowl combine the first 9 ingredients and set aside.
In a large pot simmer potatoes in salted water to cover until tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain in a large colander and move to the bowl with the dressing.
In the same saucepan cook artichokes (or green beans) in 3 inches salted boiling water over high heat until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and add to potatoes.
Mix well, let marinate and serve at room temperature.
Sicilian Potatoes Gratin
- 2 onions, sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 28-ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 baking potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
In a skillet, saute onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft and slightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and oregano. Cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
In a gratin dish, ladle enough sauce to cover bottom of dish. Layer potatoes over sauce. Continue layering tomato sauce and potatoes, ending with a layer of potatoes.
In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, olive oil and garlic. Sprinkle bread crumb topping over potatoes.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.
Braised Fingerlings with Crispy Sage & Tender Garlic
For this dish, choose fingerlings that are all about the same thickness (length doesn’t matter), so that they will all cook in about the same amount of time.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 25 large sage leaves
- 8 garlic cloves, lightly smashed and peeled
- 1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more for seasoning
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon sherry
In a large (10-inch) straight-sided skillet with a lid, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is foaming, add the sage leaves and cook, stirring a bit, until the sage leaves have turned color and are crispy and the butter is golden brown, about 2 minutes. (Watch carefully so that they don’t burn; they will stiffen and curl and turn grey as they crisp up.) Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the sage leaves with a fork or tongs to a plate.
Put the pan back over medium to medium-high heat and immediately add the garlic and potatoes. Season them with the 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss them in the butter/oil mixture. Arrange the potatoes cut side down, partially cover the pan and cook until the bottoms of the potatoes are nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and partially cover the pan again. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer and cook until the broth has reduced to just a few tablespoons, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove the lid, turn the heat off, and transfer the potatoes and garlic to a serving dish. Add the sherry to the pan and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to get up any browned bits. Immediately pour the pan drippings over the potatoes and garlic and garnish with the crispy sage leaves. Sprinkle a little kosher salt over all.
Butternut Squash & Potato Gnocchi
When making gnocchi, I always like to mix the potato with another vegetable to reduce the calorie level. You could also substitute sweet potatoes for the russet potatoes or use all sweet potatoes in the recipe below.
- 1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
- 1 pound butternut squash
- 1 /3 cup egg substitute
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting board and dough
- Sage Pesto, recipe below
Peel and quarter the potatoes. Boil until very fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return the cooked potatoes to the hot pan. Let them dry out over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Let cool a bit and then pass the potatoes through a potato ricer.
Cut the squash in half and roast in the oven, see post http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/08/make-dinner-sunday-for-your-mom/
After the squash cools, scoop out the flesh and mash it. Add the squash to the potatoes and add the egg substitute, the cheese, nutmeg, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the potatoes and press it into the potatoes. Fold the mass over on itself and press down again. Sprinkle on more flour, little by little, folding and pressing the dough until it just holds together and seems a bit sticky.
Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece on a generously floured board, into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. You can cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape with the tines of a fork. Roll the gnocchi along the times of the fork making light indentations and curving the gnocchi just a bit.
When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, shake off the excess water, and place in a serving bowl.
Gently mix with the Sage Pesto
Walnut and Sage Pesto Recipe
(makes 1 cup pesto)
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup Parmaggiano- Reggiano cheese
- 1 1/2 cups fresh packed sage
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons water
Put the food processor on and add garlic, pulse until the garlic is minced. Remove lid and add walnuts, cheese and sage. Add a big pinch of salt and of freshly ground pepper.
Close the food processor and pulse until minced. Open it back up and scrape down the sides. Combine lemon juice and water. With the processor running stream in lemon juice and olive oil. Stop and scrape down the sides.
- Farmer’s Market Potato Salad (alidoesit.wordpress.com)
- A healthy potato salad for summer (goerie.com)
- Baby Artichoke Ragout with New Potatoes (putneyfarm.com)
Authentic Italian cooking is not just pasta, as many people think, here in the States. In Italy, portion sizes are much smaller and pasta is generally served as a first course, separate from the main entree. Family meals are important events and diners are encouraged to savor their food. Italian cuisine places emphasis on the quality and freshness of ingredients and most Italian cuisine originates from frugality. Locally grown and regional products are the basis for meals. Vegetables and fruits are used to enhance and accompany the flavors of the main course. Vegetables, such as, eggplant, asparagus, artichokes, peppers, fennel, spinach, beans and escarole are most commonly used.
The dish featured here, will demonstrate how vegetables flavor and support the main dish protein. This dish features fennel, which is a vegetable that is not well know, but is showing up more and more in food magazines and on cooking shows. Fennel is a bulbous vegetable with a tall, wispy, frond top that looks rather like dill. The fronds can be used in salads or to dress a serving plate, but the main attraction of fennel is the bulb itself. It’s very firm and crunchy and it tastes a bit like anise. It has a fresh taste and is excellent for salads or slaws. It can also be grilled or braised until it becomes tender and sweet, mild and delicious.
Fish Braised With Fennel, Artichokes and Lemons
In this recipe you can use any firm white fish fillets that are found in your region, such as, halibut, cod, grouper or bass. I also prefer fresh or frozen artichoke hearts to bottled types because I think the frozen taste much fresher. This is a typical Italian preparation for fish fillets and includes many mediterranean flavors. Give this recipe a try for your next meal.
You will need:
- 2 lemons
- 1-9oz. package frozen artichokes, defrosted and cut in half
- 1/2 large onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, core removed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Flour for dredging
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 fillets (each weighing about 6 ounces and 1 inch thick)
- Fennel fronds
Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon into very thin slices.
Put onion, fennel, artichoke hearts, oregano, lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan. Cover pan.
Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.
Season both sides of the fish fillets with salt, pepper and a light coating of flour.
In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook fillets, without moving them, until bottoms are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully turn; cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Return artichoke mixture to the pan and warm for a minute or two. Spoon 1/2 cup artichoke mixture over each fillet. Garnish with fennel fronds.