Author: Trish Sebben-Krupka
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been crazy for artichokes. 9-year-old me could think of nothing more elegant than an artichoke, steamed to perfection, with my very own little bowl of vinaigrette on the side to dip each leaf into. As I grew older, I branched out into baby artichokes, smashed and fried whole, with a sprinkle of coarse salt, or perhaps simmered slowly in an unconscionable amount of delicious olive oil, white wine, and herbs from my garden.
Preparing artichokes of any size requires just a little effort. Cut off the bottom part of the stem and the top ¼ inch of leaves, then snap off the first couple of layers of outer leaves. Use a sharp scissor to cut away the pointy end of each leaf (also known as a bract). Rub the cut parts with lemon as you work to prevent oxidation. Nobody wants to eat a brown artichoke! Spread out the leaves and scoop the spiny purple “choke” from the center of each artichoke. Place each cleaned artichoke in a bath of cold water with a little lemon juice as you work. Now you’re ready to cook!
I love simple preparations that don’t really require a recipe. To fry artichokes in the Italian style, dry small “baby” artichokes completely after cleaning so the oil doesn’t splatter. Use a heavy knife or cleaver to smash each artichoke flat, then dry again to remove all traces of moisture. Fry quickly in a few inches of very hot olive oil until crisp and golden, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with coarse salt. A little dipping sauce made of plant-based mayo, garlic, lemon, and black pepper makes this into a luxurious treat, or just eat them as they are while standing at the stove!
Until the 16th century, women in many countries were forbidden from eating artichokes because they were considered an aphrodisiac. Maybe, in the end, it’s some sort of genetic sense memory—is it the anti-authoritarian feminist “troublemaker” in me that loves artichokes so much? After all, what’s more delicious than forbidden fruit (or, in this case, forbidden flowers)? Or maybe they’re just great tasting and great for you.
Lemon-Garlic Sauce for Fried Artichokes:
- ¼ cup plant-based mayo
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, smashed and very finely chopped*
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Stir mayo, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Season to taste with black pepper. Let stand for 20 minutes or so while you fry the artichokes to allow flavors to blend. Refrigerate leftovers immediately and use within 3 days.
*If you are sensitive to raw garlic, heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan and poach the garlic over a very low flame for a few minutes, then cool and proceed with recipe.