When shopping for artichokes - it's all about freshness - look for those with a firm stalk - and don't be afraid to touch the produce - if your veggie guy has nothing to hide - he won't mind. The head should again be firm and the leaves should look fresh and closed - once they start the dry out and open - it is bye bye......
Also - try and get your veggie guy to order Italian artichokes - these are more tender and you can use more of the choke - also if you plan to cook the traditional roman specialities - like alla Giudea or alla Romana - then you really want the Italian stuff - so ask for Romanesco or Cimaroli - these have big purple heads and the leaves are slightly loose - see first pic. It is also a good thing to go for the chokes with a thicker stalk - again these are more tender and more delicious to eat - and on the italian cultivars you can even cook the stalks - just trim the down.
Today we are going to cook a dish from Puglia - we call it a focaccia - but is is really just a good way of using up stale bread and a few artichokes - great as a snack or as part of an anti pasto - and it can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Just pour the Vino Bianco.....
5 big artichokes
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
300 g stale white bread
4 eggs, whisked together
50 g parmesan, grated
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
half a handful mint, chopped
sea salt and black pepper
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
So lets start......begin with the artichokes. Prepare a large bowl of cold water and squeeze the lemon into the water - add the lemon as well. On the artichokes, snap of the dark green leaves until only the pale and tender inner leaves remain. Cut of the spiky top of the artichoke. Keep a few centimeters of the stem and trim away any dark part around the bottom. Cut the trimmed artichoke in half and remove the chokes with a small spoon. Slice each half into smaller pieces - and place them in the water with the lemon. Repeat with the rest of the artichokes.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the vinegar. Drain your prepared artichokes and add the the boiling water. Cook until tender - then drain.
In the mean time break the bread into smaller pieces and soak in cold water for a few minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Place the drained artichokes in a bowl, squeeze out the water from the bread and add it to the bowl together with the eggs, parmesan, herbs and 3 tbsp of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Prepare a baking pan - we use our non-stick focaccia pan - 20x30 cm - grease the pan with olive oil and scoop the mixture inside your pan. Press it down gently with a fork and drizzle a few more tbsp of olive oil on top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes until golden on top.