Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tour of Italy ~ Day 10 ... Apulian Artichokes

       Occupying the heel of the Italian boot, Apulia produces more wines than any other region in Italy. And the region is know to be heavily influenced by the Greeks and the Arabs. It is said to be the richest of the southern regions and it is home to the "Trulli" (unique conical white structures.) This region is also known for the the most distinctive pastas in the land called "orechiette" which means "little ears. This pasta is still made by hand in most areas of Apulia by the older women, who like to sit outside in the warm weather shaping the noodles on wooden boards. These noodles are especially designed to hold the hearty Apulian sauces that are simply, barely cooked and usually made from vegetables. The Apulian people are known to eat pasta everyday.
        But in keeping with the spirit of Sunday, we have decided to keep things simple and carefree. The dish featured today is actually a dish that could be made a day ahead. They were very tasty... We couldn't find any baby artichokes, so we went ahead and used large ones. They worked okay, just a lot more cleaning was involved and I think the next time we make them we will reduce the white wine, but none-the-less they were very delicious. This dish can also be mashed down and served over orechiette pasta.

Apulian Artichokes  "Braised Baby Artichokes"

  • 12 baby or 6 large artichokes 
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

  • Garnish: chopped fresh mint
  • Special equipment: a melon-ball cutter
Keep stem attached and, at opposite end, cut off top inch of 1 artichoke with a serrated knife. Bend back outer leaves until they snap off close to base, then discard several more layers of leaves in same manner until you reach pale yellow leaves with pale green tips.
Cut remaining leaves flush with top of artichoke bottom using a sharp knife, then pull out purple leaves and scoop out fuzzy choke with melon-ball cutter. Trim dark green fibrous parts from base and sides of artichoke with a sharp paring knife, then rub cut surfaces with a lemon half.
Cut 1/4 inch from end of stem to expose inner core. Trim sides of stem (still attached) down to pale inner core. Rub cut surfaces with same lemon half.
Trim remaining artichokes in same manner.
Put water and oil in a 4-quart heavy pot.
Mince and mash garlic with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then mix in mint. Rub one sixth of garlic paste into cavity of each artichoke, then stand artichokes upside down in liquid in pot. Sprinkle remaining teaspoon salt over artichokes, then simmer, covered, over low heat, until tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Transfer artichokes to a serving dish and boil cooking liquid, Add sour cream and mayonnaise, whisking, until emulsified and reduced to about 1/3 cup.  Pour sauce over artichokes and serve warm or at room temperature.

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