Saturday, 16 March 2013

Pluck Those Petals!

Carciofo al Vapore con Menta & Limone
Steamed Artichoke with Mint & Lemon

Artichoke, plain, simple and delicious as nature intended- that was my intention this evening... well almost! I did perfume it gently with mint, garlic and lemon- those Sicilian favorites, and also gave it a little trickle of olive oil... but otherwise, this beautiful Romana artichoke is so perfect in itself it would be a shame to spoil it with a greasy dip or suchlikes! 

So read on and I will explain to you the simple method I used to get a lot of flavor into this lovely flower, whilst not spoiling it at all! In a little experiment, I decided to try to infuse the artichoke with flavor during steaming- and it worked! 

Artichokes are never really difficult to prepare, as there are really not that many ways to prepare them- they always require either steaming or boiling and what usually happens outside of Italy, is that people think they need to be dipped into something! Back home in Sicily, we usually stuff finely chopped garlic, mint and parsley in-between the leaves before boiling them, then bind a thick slice of lemon to the top to keep the flavor in and the leaves from turning brown... but tonight I did things a little differently.

I simply popped a crushed clove of garlic and a handful of mint into the water I used for steaming... that was all! Not rocket science! I spread the petals of the artichoke a little before steaming and sprinkled it with a little salt and pepper, then set it onto the steam rack above the mint and garlic water, brought it to the boil and then reduced the heat to a gentle rolling boil and let it steam, with the lid on, for 45 minutes to an hour. 

At the end of that time, when I took the artichoke out of the steamer, it was so tender that the leaves simply fell away on the outside- as you can see from my photo. But I carefully lifted it and arranged it on my serving dish, plucking the outer petals apart and laying them on the dish so that I could sprinkle them with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice again... and let me tell you good people- the smell was amazing! This is probably my favorite way to enjoy artichoke- look at how tender and soft and delicious those leaves look... and just an inch or so away is the succulent heart- just beautiful! I am not big on flowers per se... but you could give me these petals any day!

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