Roman Jewish Artichoke’s 3+ Ways: Braised, Deep Fried & Confit (Sous-Vide). Sigmund Freud’s Dream About The Worm In His Favorite Flower, The Jewish Thistle (Recipe) #CarciofiAllaRomana #CarciofiAllaGiudia

artichokes 3 ways - deep fried Jewish-style, braised Roman-style and confit (carciofi alla giudia, carciofi alla romana & carciofi conditi with vinaigrette)

 

Recipes Inside:
Jewish-Style Deep Fried Artichokes, carciofi alla giudia
Roman-Style Braised Artichokes, carciofi alla romana
Artichokes Confit (slow cooked/sous-vide)
Artichoke Purée and Stock from Stems and Scrapes

We are the people of the artichoke,
not only the people of the Holocaust
Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome1

THE recent rise in popularity of artichokes in Vienna is neither a recent fad nor a modern-day infatuation with Italy’s decadent cuisine and easy Mediterranean lifestyle. You can even find mention of them in local cookbooks dating as far back as the 17th century.2

The history of the artichoke’s arrival in Viennese cuisine is quite an interesting one. This wild thistle was first mentioned by Homer as far back as the 8th century B.C.E.3 and later appeared in discussions in the Talmud. However, the ancient version of the flower was wild, tough and prickly. The Arabs living in northern Africa cultivated and nurtured the plant into the strains similar to those you’ll find in the supermarkets today. After making its way through the Arab world, it arrived in southern Italy sometime in the latter half of the 15th century. After traveling through the country all the way to Venice, the artichoke eventually made its way to the rest of Europe where it started to become a part of mainstream cuisine. “Al-qarshuf,” the Arabic word for “thistle,” quickly became articiocco and carciofo in Italian and then “artichoke” in English as the thistle became more and more common throughout the countries of Europe.

The Jews were instrumental in the artichoke’s dissemination, adoption, and success along the way. So much so, in fact, that the vegetable is sometimes referred to as the Jewish thistle.4 In Rome, the limited number of ovens available forced the Jewish population to opt for deep fried food. Such was the reason they came up with the celebrated carciofi alla giudia, which is especially popular around Pesach (Passover) when artichokes are in season. In Venice, residents love to tell the story of how the Jews would fertilize the soil of the lagoon’s islands, the most famous of which is Sant’Erasmo, with “scoasse,” which is rubbish in Venetian. The Jews worked diligently with crab shells and various other shells they could find on the coasts to plant the famous small purple articiochi, as artichokes are called in Venice.

The glorious, Jewish-style artichoke,“carciofi alla giudia,” looks like a big flower here. It is the pride and joy of Roman-Jewish cuisine.
The glorious, Jewish-style artichoke,“carciofi alla giudia,” looks like a big flower here. It is the pride and joy of Roman-Jewish cuisine.
Don’t be afraid to deep fry the artichoke, but be careful. You’ll need a thermometer, a large, heavy pot with good ventilation, and a fire extinguisher, which should be handy in every kitchen anyway. The entire process really isn’t that bad. It’s quick and very easy, in fact. You’ll want to fill the pot no more than halfway with olive oil, but make sure not to heat the oil above 300°F/150°C. After about ten minutes or when the artichoke is nicely golden brown, take out the vegetable and let it drain on paper towels before indulging in one of the most heavenly wonders of Roman Jewish cuisine.
Don’t be afraid to deep fry the artichoke, but be careful. You’ll need a thermometer, a large, heavy pot with good ventilation, and a fire extinguisher, which should be handy in every kitchen anyway. The entire process really isn’t that bad. It’s quick and very easy, in fact. You’ll want to fill the pot no more than halfway with olive oil, but make sure not to heat the oil above 300°F/150°C. After about ten minutes or when the artichoke is nicely golden brown, take out the vegetable and let it drain on paper towels before indulging in one of the most heavenly wonders of Roman Jewish cuisine.

In the 16th century, artichokes came to France from Italy. Caterina de Medici, an Italian noblewoman who was queen of France at the time, is said to have been the object of curious speculation because of her great love for artichokes. News travelled from one court to another, and the artichoke quickly became a favorite among Vienna’s Habsburgs as well. One of Austria’s last reigning emperors, Franz-Joseph I, even had a version named “the emperor’s artichoke,” which included all sorts of lavish sauces and toppings.

As loyal subjects, the Viennese ate artichokes regularly, and Sigmund Freud was certainly no exception. Freud absolutely loved artichokes. Artichokes were served at his table in multiple ways as often as the market would allow it.5 Vienna is close enough to Italy to have had a supply of fresh artichokes when they were in season from December to April even back in Freud’s days. Today, artichokes are even grown locally and thus are also available from July to September.6 There were many recipes the Freuds would have chosen from: the recipes from the emperor’s court, the ones from their beloved Italy, and those found in the cookbook Freud himself offered to his wife soon after their marriage, which lists not one, but a series of recipes for preparing artichokes.7

In line with Freud’s fascination for Italy and appreciation for its food, I chose two simple but well-loved artichoke recipes for this article. These recipes figure prominently on every Roman Jewish menu and in every cookbook around the city and throughout its Jewish community. Whether you choose Roman-style braised alla romana, or Roman-Jewish-style, deep-fried alla giudia, these delicious, six-hundred-year-old dishes are products of a rich, multicultural history. Perhaps though you’d rather go for the third recipe, artichoke confit, which has a pleasantly nutty flavor. These are slowly cooked in oil — subtle canola, not olive oil, so as not to overpower the delicate flavor — and served simply with a mayonnaise or vinaigrette made from the deliciously infused cooking oil. Its penetrating taste is divine! The trimmings, stems, and extra leaves are excellent for a stock to make risotto, or, as in the fourth recipe listed here, as a purée with mascarpone cheese after they’ve been cooked, mixed, and passed through a fine-mesh sieve.

Carciofi alla romana plated. I kept a lot of the base of the leaves as they were all edible. How much you keep will vary depending on your preferences, the type of artichoke, and the time of the year.
Carciofi alla romana plated. I kept a lot of the base of the leaves as they were all edible. How much you keep will vary depending on your preferences, the type of artichoke, and the time of the year.
Artichokes peeled and cored, with their stems mentuccia or, like here, with mint, parsley, and a bit of oregano ready to be braised into succulent carciofi alla romana. (For more on mentuccia see recipe below.)
Artichokes peeled and cored, with their stems mentuccia or, like here, with mint, parsley, and a bit of oregano ready to be braised into succulent carciofi alla romana. (For more on mentuccia see recipe below.)
Carciofi alla romana with their braising liquid and some extra fresh mint leaves. Artichokes are notoriously difficult to pair with wine, but ideally, you would serve this dish with a sparkling white wine. Otherwise, you could pair it with a fruity and only slightly acidic white wine like some carefully chosen Grüner Veltliner, which Freud might have done himself.
Carciofi alla romana with their braising liquid and some extra fresh mint leaves. Artichokes are notoriously difficult to pair with wine, but ideally, you would serve this dish with a sparkling white wine. Otherwise, you could pair it with a fruity and only slightly acidic white wine like some carefully chosen Grüner Veltliner, which Freud might have done himself.

Sigmund Freud loved8 and even famously dreamed about artichokes in his Botanical Monography dream.9 Freud was very much attracted to Rome, the place associated with two of these famous recipes. Just like he had a love-hate relationship with his hometown Vienna though, Freud had certain reservations regarding his destination, the eternal city. In addition to the influence his Jewish upbringing must have had on him, Freud was anxious about the city’s feminine charms and masculine power, its inherently bisexual nature, and its Christian and anti-Semitic culture.10 However, unlike his school-time hero, the great Carthaginian military genius Hannibal, who stopped just short of Rome, Freud would eventually come to conquer the city of his dreams. This is how historian Peter Gay quotes Freud on Hannibal and Rome:

My longing for Rome is deeply neurotic. It is connected with my schoolboy enthusiasm for the Semitic hero Hannibal.” As we know, Freud interpreted his Gymnasialschwärmerei as an expression of his passionate wish to defy and defeat anti-Semites. To conquer Rome was to triumph in the seat — the headquarters — of the Jews’ most implacable enemies: ‘Hannibal and Rome symbolized for the youth the contrast between the tenacity of Jewry and the organization of the Catholic church.” There was more to it even than that; his desire for Rome, he noted, stood as “cloak and symbol for several other hotly longed-for wishes.” It was, he hinted, oedipal in nature.11

Unlike his father, Freud would defy the anti-Semites and go on to conquer Rome despite, or perhaps because of, his oedipal desire for it. Freud overcame his phobia and embraced the city’s daily life. To his wife back home he wrote: “The water, the coffee, the food, the bread: excellent.”12

Once in Rome, Freud could see the city as a whole standing for his doctrine of civilization. For him, the city embodied the three major forces in society — religious, individualist, and Communist — and extended hope to humanity through psychoanalysis. As such, Freud wrote about “a constant reconciliation between past and present, between archeological time — that of the unconscious — and the time of consciousness projected into the future.”13 The archeological layers of the city were like the leaves of an artichoke. Indeed, Freud even suggests in the analysis of his Botanical Monography dream that the psychoanalytic process itself could be symbolized by an artichoke.

Baby artichokes confit, slowly cooked in a light vegetable oil with garlic, mint and lemon rind.
Baby artichokes confit, slowly cooked in a light vegetable oil with garlic, mint and lemon rind.
 You can also confit larger artichokes or even cut them in half.
You can also confit larger artichokes or even cut them in half.
Artichokes confit are also beautiful when halved. They are delicious with a mayonnaise or a vinaigrette made out of the cooking oil. If you decide to leave them whole, you will have to chew on each and every leaf, scraping the meaty part off the petals between your teeth.
Artichokes confit are also beautiful when halved. They are delicious with a mayonnaise or a vinaigrette made out of the cooking oil. If you decide to leave them whole, you will have to chew on each and every leaf, scraping the meaty part off the petals between your teeth.

Even at first glance, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the artichoke was one of Professor Freud’s favorite flowers. However, maybe you could have guessed after having read through my article Freud’s Asparagus, the Vegan Wiener, a reminder that to Freud, all pointed things are phallic in nature. The artichoke is no exception. That being said, the thistle has some quite surprising sexual qualities of its own, allusions to which you’ll find scattered throughout Italian literature and culture.

To begin with, the Greek god Zeus once decided to punish the beautiful, young nymph Cynara with green and violet eyes and hair for refusing his advances. In this blatantly sexualized scene, he turns her into what is known today as an artichoke or Cynara cardunculus, which is the thorny delicacy’s botanical name.14 Years later, the edible flower bud would acquire a significance relevant to Freud’s own identity. Like garlic, the artichoke is closely associated with the Jews and would eventually become known as the Jewish thistle. To cap it all off, unlike Hannibal, the Jewish vegetable would come to dominate the enemy’s capital, Rome, the anti-Semitic oppressor that destroyed the second temple in Jerusalem in ancient times.

The artichoke has been a staple in Rome for hundreds of years. There’s even a variety called romanseco or mammola, which subtly equates Rome with breastfeeding. More precisely, the name associates Rome with a mammal, a particular she-wolf, that once breastfed the mythical twin founders of Rome. Brothers Romulus and Remus being fed by the she-wolf are, incidentally, the symbol of the city. This happens to be the variety of artichoke used for all famous Roman specialties that the city’s inhabitants and visitors are chewing, or perhaps we could even say sucking, on — and one knows how messy eating artichokes can be.

The symbol of the Jewish diaspora, the people of the artichoke, on the famous relief of the Arch of Titus at Via Sacra in Rome. (It depicts the captive Jews after the destruction of the Temple as they were forced to walk through the arch. The Jews later refused to walk through this arch until the creation of the modern state of Israel. Rabbinical authorities reversed their decision, but it stood as late as 1997.)
The symbol of the Jewish diaspora, the people of the artichoke, on the famous relief of the Arch of Titus at Via Sacra in Rome. (It depicts the captive Jews after the destruction of the Temple as they were forced to walk through the arch. The Jews later refused to walk through this arch until the creation of the modern state of Israel. Rabbinical authorities reversed their decision, but it stood as late as 1997.)

One would be mistaken to believe that these sexual innuendos are solely confined to Freud’s phantasies. In fact, it isn’t even necessary to limit oneself to a Freudian perspective to find sexual innuendos that make use of the artichoke. In the USA, where artichokes are available throughout the year, Marilyn Monroe, perhaps the most popular sex symbol ever, promoted American artichokes from Castroville, the self-declared “Artichoke Center of the World.” A star like her promoting a vegetable would be rather peculiar if not for the artichoke’s glamorous, aphrodisiacal, and sexual qualities. In fact, the artichoke is a classic phallic symbol present throughout the history of art. There are countless examples of illustrations only a few of which I’d like to mention here. You’ll find artichokes in Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s “Summer”, Pablo Picasso’s “Woman with the Artichoke,” Giorgio de Chirico’s different melancholic artichokes, and Diego Rivera’s “Young Woman with Artichokes.”15

Giuseppe Arcimboldo ”Estate” (Summer), 1572 (Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna): Freud certainly noticed the artichoke sticking out of the women’s bosom during one of his many visits to the newly opened Kunsthistorische Museum on Vienna’s pompous Ringstraße. All fruits and vegetables in the painting are symbolic of the summer except for the artichoke, which grows from December to April in Italy. Sometimes an artichoke is just an artichoke, but not in this instance.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo “Estate” (Summer), 1572 (Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna): Freud certainly noticed the artichoke sticking out of the women’s bosom during one of his many visits to the newly opened Kunsthistorisches Museum on Vienna’s pompous Ringstraße. All fruits and vegetables in the painting are symbolic of the summer except for the artichoke, which grows from December to April in Italy. Sometimes an artichoke is just an artichoke, but not in this instance.
Pablo Picasso “La Femme à l’Artichaut” (The Woman with an Artichoke), 1941 (Museum Ludwig, Köln). The woman for which Dora Maar, Picasso’s then partner, was the model, was painted during the turmoil of war. Here she is holding a very large phallic artichoke resembling a scepter or a medieval weapon
Pablo Picasso “La Femme à l’Artichaut” (The Woman with an Artichoke), 1941 (Museum Ludwig, Köln). The woman for which Dora Maar, Picasso’s then partner, was the model, was painted during the turmoil of war. Here she is holding a very large phallic artichoke resembling a scepter or a medieval weapon
Diego Rivera “La jeune fille aux artichauts” 1913. I think of Rivera’s painting when the question of Frida Kahlo’s “mysterious obsession” with artichokes comes up as it does in Bruno Ciccaglione little book on artichokes (in “Artischoke“, Vienna, Mandelbaum “Kleine Gourmandisen”, 2016).
Diego Rivera “La jeune fille aux artichauts” 1913. I think of Rivera’s painting when the question of Frida Kahlo’s “mysterious obsession” with artichokes comes up as it does in Bruno Ciccaglione little book on artichokes (in “Artischoke”, Vienna, Mandelbaum “Kleine Gourmandisen”, 2016).

From this extract from Pablo Neruda’s Ode to the Artichoke —

“[…] leaf after leaf
we undress
the delicacy
and eat
the peaceful substance
of its green heart.16

you might assume that in Latin languages, artichoke is a female word and its roundness and central cavity is a symbol for either a woman’s breasts or genitalia. These lines could also refer to a sexually undetermined anus, for which indeed the artichoke also sometimes stands— a toothed one at that. However, in Spanish, French and Italian, artichoke is male and phallic: “Il carciofo” is a standard term for the male genItalia (this wordplay also worked for Freud in German “GenItalien”).

We can observe the play on words and meaning here in Freud’s own analysis of the botanical dream:

Behind the artichoke there lies, on the one hand, a recollection of Italy, and on the other a reminiscence of a scene of my childhood, in which I first formed an acquaintance — which has since then grown so intimate — with books.

The acquaintance grew so intimate, in fact, that Freud developed a serious bibliophilia, a real passion for books, which led him to amass a considerable collection over his lifetime. On at least one occasion, as he recalls in the analysis of the artichoke dream, the young Freud spent more money than he had on new acquisitions. In the end, his father, who had to pay the outstanding bills, angrily declared that his son would never amount to anything. But the son’s conquest of Rome (and the artichoke) will prove otherwise.

The childhood memory Freud refers to in the passage above is, nonetheless, a pleasurable moment. It relates to an incident in which the young boy was given permission by his father to tear apart — and thus physically know — a book “like an artichoke, leaf by leaf” in Freud’s own words.17 He would later become what he called a bookworm, like the hypothetical worm in the artichoke — a doubly important detail as we will see shortly.

Lazio, the area of Italy containing Rome, smells of artichokes slowly braising away in olive oil, garlic, herbs and lemon water in some mother’s kitchen. Artichokes are assigned aphrodisiacal qualities in many cultures, but in the Lazio region in particular, the flower bud is associated with a sort of rite of passage marking the onset of adult life. Children tend not to appreciate the flower bud, and the taste is often acquired with adulthood. When growing up and beginning to appreciate the beauty of sexual attraction for the first time, adolescents will eat an artichoke to commemorate the experience.18

“Violetti”, violet artichokes, another one of over sixty Italian varieties seen at the Mercato dell’Unità, in Rome. Artichokes are generally available from late December to at least the end of April. Because Vienna is relatively close, Italian artichokes were already available there during Freud’s lifetime and were eaten in his home as often as possible.
“Violetti”, violet artichokes, another one of over sixty Italian varieties seen at the Mercato dell’Unità, in Rome. Artichokes are generally available from late December to at least the end of April. Because Vienna is relatively close, Italian artichokes were already available there during Freud’s lifetime and were eaten in his home as often as possible.
<em>Artichokes are so beautiful! A crate of organic carciofi “romanesci”, aka “mammole” artichokes imported directly from neighboring Italy and bought on Vienna’s Karmelitermarkt market. The market is situated on the so-called “</em><a href="https://schibboleth.com/mazzesinsel-sebestyen-fiumei/"><em><u>Mazzesinsel</u></em></a><em>” (“matzo island”), a traditionally Jewish neighborhood, which is adjacent to old town center and is sandwiched between the Danube river and its canal.</em>
Artichokes are so beautiful! A crate of organic carciofi “romaneschi”, aka “mammole” artichokes imported directly from neighboring Italy and bought on Vienna’s Karmelitermarkt market. The market is situated on the so-called “Mazzesinsel” (“matzo island”), a traditionally Jewish neighborhood, which is adjacent to the old town center and is sandwiched between the Danube river and its canal.
<em>You can never get enough artichokes. Most of the flower gets peeled away anyway, and then you and your guests will end up eating far more than you would have imagined. Here’s another crate of organic carciofi </em>bought at <a href="http://www.BioMartin.at" target="_blank" rel="noopener">BioMartin</a>'s market stall.
You can never get enough artichokes. Most of the flower gets peeled away anyway, and then you and your guests will end up eating far more than you would have imagined. Here’s another crate of organic carciofi bought at BioMartin‘s market stall.

The artichoke’s various sexual implications from breasts, to female and male genitalia, to a sexually undetermined anus, were very likely behind an incident involving Caravaggio, the notoriously violent Italian Baroque painter.19 Upon ordering artichokes in a Roman tavern, the painter asked the server to identify which artichokes were prepared in oil and which in butter. He received what seems to be a rather provocative answer: to try to smell the difference himself. We can only speculate at the offensive nature of this remark by judging the painter’s reaction. Caravaggio then got up and tried to kill the provocateur with his sword, a weapon he reportedly did use to kill on at least one other occasion.

In comparison, Freud was naturally more of a “carciofon,” an introvert.20 A master of sexual sublimation, he recounts apropos of his artichoke dream that he doesn’t offer his wife, Martha Bernays, her favorite flowers, cyclamen, as often as he should. The flowers are, quite appropriately, a symbol of a profound and lasting love that’s strong enough to withstand adversity. All the while, she doesn’t miss even a single opportunity to bring him his favorite ones, artichokes. As has been mentioned, even the menu at Freud’s home at Berggasse 19 featured his much-appreciated artichokes as often as possible.21

On the whole, the artichoke’s qualities, and even their evocation, make the vegetable and its symbolic power, rather not “tsniusdik,” a Yiddish or common way Jews refer to modesty. These sexual innuendos are incompatible with the Judeo-Christian imperative for “modesty” and “humility” in the conduct between the sexes as well as among members of the same sex. Freud’s hostility towards religiosity, his stance for Judaism without religion, a Judaism of diaspora and books, rendered him, in the eyes of religious rabbis, the literal worm in the heart of the artichoke. You could even say that Freud became what he always dreamed of becoming: the bookworm between the leaves of a book, the archeological layers of Rome, and the tiers of the unconscious.

Ironically, the chief rabbinate of Israel, which continually enforces ever stricter fundamentalist rulings, had to declare artichokes unkosher in spring 2018 because of the inherent difficulty in ridding the vegetable of worms. Worms and other parasites are not kosher, meaning that they are not permissible for consumption under religious law. The Jewish thistle, the food of many great Jewish Italian sages, has been served in Roman kosher homes and restaurants for centuries. However, this ruling renders artichokes, and especially Jewish-style artichokes, in which the heart is left whole, unfit for consumption by the pious and righteous.22

This deep fried vegetable tastes like potato chips with the flavor of an artichoke. The heart has a deep and pronounced flavor, and the outer leaves have a nice crunch in contrast with its soft and silky center.
This deep fried vegetable tastes like potato chips with the flavor of an artichoke. The heart has a deep and pronounced flavor, and the outer leaves have a nice crunch in contrast with its soft and silky center.

Freud would have probably only wondered why it took them so long to come after the worm. When once repairing a few leaves of a bookworm-infested Herbarium, a book containing a collection of dried plants, which he, incidentally, mentions in his analysis of the artichoke dream. He explains that the school’s principal, who had assigned him to this task had, just like the chief rabbis of Israel today, little faith in the young boy’s ability to clean the leaves of the Herbarium of insects. However, he succeeded to rid the place of bugs just like generations of Jewish Italians and their Rabbis and cooks have done for hundreds of years. Edda Servi Machlin, the author of the legendary The Classic Cuisines Of The Italian Jews, even describes in detail how to traditionally clean artichokes in her recipes and in “Hymne to the Artichoke.”23 Thankfully, in Jewish tradition, there is no pope or official central authority, so every community has the freedom to set its own standards regarding the kosher status of various foods.

Here’s how to enjoy artichokes Roman and Jewish-style:

Cleaning artichokes for carciofi alla romana usually makes a big mess. You should make sure to wear gloves to avoid staining your fingers with the oxidizing artichokes. A very sharp knife, more precisely a peeling or turning knife, is ideal. When you’re finished, make sure not to discard the leaves or stem. Instead, use them as the ingredients for the purée (see recipes below) or stock for a delicious artichoke risotto!
Cleaning artichokes for carciofi alla romana usually makes a big mess. You should make sure to wear gloves to avoid staining your fingers with the oxidizing artichokes. A very sharp knife, more precisely a peeling or turning knife, is ideal. When you’re finished, make sure not to discard the leaves or stem. Instead, use them as the ingredients for the purée (see recipes below) or stock for a delicious artichoke risotto!
You don’t want to “eat and spit,” as they say in Rome. So first snap off all the outer artichoke petals until you reach the lighter-colored inner ones. Then use a paring knife to cut the outer leaves of the artichokes in a rising spiral motion. If you’re in a hurry, simply skip this step and proceed directly to cut off the top fibrous part of the artichoke leaves.
You don’t want to “eat and spit,” as they say in Rome. So first snap off all the outer artichoke petals until you reach the lighter-colored inner ones. Then use a paring knife to cut the outer leaves of the artichokes in a rising spiral motion. If you’re in a hurry, simply skip this step and proceed directly to cut off the top fibrous part of the artichoke leaves.
When working with larger artichokes, make sure to remove the inedible choke from the center with a melon baller. If you’re in a pinch, you could also halve the artichoke and simply remove the choke with a knife.
When working with larger artichokes, make sure to remove the inedible choke from the center with a melon baller. If you’re in a pinch, you could also halve the artichoke and simply remove the choke with a knife.
Always reserve artichokes in cold lemon water to keep them from browning. Traditionally you would want them to sit in the cold lemon water for up to twenty or thirty minutes. This way you would even get rid of the most hypothetical bug, especially if also bang them on your work surface cut-side down when draining.
Always place artichokes in cold lemon water to keep them from browning. Traditionally, you would have left them to sit in cold lemon water for up to twenty or thirty minutes. This way, you could make sure to eliminate even the smallest bugs. Jewish Italians would also hit them against their work surface cut-side down before leaving them to drain.

 

3+ Recipes: Roman Jewish Artichokes

Notoriously difficult to pair with wine, artichokes are best served with champagne, prosecco, sekt, or any other fruity and acidic sparkling white wine. You might consider white wine like an Austrian Grüner Veltliner with similar characteristics or even a spritz(er).

yields 4 appetizer servings

Cleaning & Preparing Artichokes

Don’t forget to wear gloves to prevent the artichokes from staining your fingers. Alternatively, you could rub your hands with lemon juice. The artichokes can be kept in lemon water for a couple of hours. Lastly, there’s no need to remove the choke from baby artichokes and most smaller specimens, but this will generally depend on the variety.

2 lemons

  1. Prepare a large bowl of cold water that can hold all of the artichokes once they’re cleaned. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Then cut another lemon in half and set aside.
  2. Peel off the outer petals until you reach the lighter-colored inner leaves. (Keep all the leaves, stems, and trimmings except the choke to make an excellent artichoke purée or a stock for an artichoke risotto. See below)
  3. Cut the stem to about 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) for the Roman-style artichokes. Cut it off almost completely for the Jewish-style artichokes and the artichokes confit.
  4. Turn the artichoke and cut with a paring knife in a climbing spiral motion to remove the entire peel, external green, and hard upper parts of the petals.
  5. Cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke leaves or up to 1/2 of it.
  6. Peel the stem and remaining green parts at the base until the plant’s soft, light-colored core appears.
  7. Prevent oxidation: Rub all exposed artichoke flesh with the cut side of the lemon to prevent the vegetable from browning.
  8. To remove the choke of larger artichokes, gently open the leaves of the flower and remove the innermost pointy leaves and the choke with either a lemon baller or your fingers. If you’re in a pinch, you could also cut the artichoke in half and remove the choke with a knife.
  9. Keep the artichoke immersed in cold lemon water for at least 20 minutes after you have cleaned it. As the vegetable tends to float, either use a plate to keep them submerged or cover the bowl with a wet (paper) towel.
  10. Bang the artichokes on a cutting board to finish cleaning the artichokes so that the water comes out from the inside together with any residual dirt. Rinse them under running water and drain them upside down.

Continue with the recipe

Carciofi Alla Giudia (Jewish-Style Artichokes)

This is a very simple one-step method used by many home cooks throughout Italy. If you’re not doing prep-work for a restaurant, serving a large crowd, or freezing the artichokes for later consumption, there’s really no need to use the two-step method, which requires you to pre-cook the artichokes. When using the two-step method, you’ll first deep fry the artichokes at a lower temperature, about 265°F/130°C, for 15 to 20 minutes or until they’re tender. At this point, they are let to cool completely and can be frozen for later. When you’re ready to serve them, open the leaves further by hand and fry them up at 340°F/170°C for about 3 minutes.

4 artichokes, preferably “romanesco” or “mammole”
Light olive oil for deep frying
2 lemons cut int halves
fine table salt (iodine-free to avoid bitterness)

  1. Clean and immerse the artichokes in lemon water as directed above under “Clean & Prepare Artichokes”.
  2. Drain the artichokes of the lemon water and gently tap them on the counter to help open up their leaves. Use your fingers if necessary but be very careful not to tear them. Do not overdo this step, as they will eventually open up in the hot oil.
  3. Carefully heat the oil to 300-320°F/150-60°C in a large pot like a Dutch oven, but make sure not to fill the pot more than halfway. The oil should be at least 4 inches deep. Keep an oil thermometer on hand to monitor the temperature or simply dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the preheating oil after a few minutes to test for the right temperature. When you start to notice small bubbles rising from the wooden handle, the oil will have reached the right temperature. If the oil bubbles vigorously, then you’ll want to wait a few minutes for the oil to cool down.
  4. Fry the artichokes for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. When a knife can easily slide through the heart to the bottom of the artichoke, they’re finished cooking. Remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels.
  5. Salt and serve immediately with half a lemon.

Carciofi Alla Romana (Roman-Style Artichokes)

You don’t necessarily have to stuff the artichokes with the garlic and mint mixture if you’re short on time. Instead, just put the whole leaves and the coarsely chopped garlic into the pot with the artichokes and cook the ingredients all together.

Alternatively, once the artichokes are cooked, or upon reheating, you could also let the wine or lemon water evaporate and slowly and carefully brown the artichokes in the infused oil. You could turn this into a very different dish! They are delicious both ways, alla romana or rosolate, meaning “browned.”

4 artichokes, preferably “romanesco” or “mammole”
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 cup of an acidic white wine like a Grüner Veltliner (or water with the juice of 1 lemon)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 bunch mint (preferably “mentuccia”)
fine table salt (iodine-free to avoid bitterness)
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Clean and immerse artichokes in lemon water as directed above under “Clean & Prepare Artichokes.” Drain.
  2. Mince mint and garlic. Mix together with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and fill into the cavities of the drained artichokes.
  3. Rub with salt and pepper on the bottom and the stem.
  4. Place into a pot just large enough for the artichokes to sit stem side up. Add olive oil and white wine (or lemon water).
  5. Cook covered for 30 minutes on low heat or until a knife easily pierces the stem.
  6. Serve with cooking liquid when still hot, tepid, at room temperature, or cold. Add a few fresh slices of mint or mentuccia leaves.

Artichokes Confit (Very Slowly Cooked in Oil/Sous-Vide)

Don’t let yourself be fooled by the apparent simplicity of this dish, it might become your next favorite. It is important to use neutral vegetable oil like canola here, in order not to overpower the artichokes. Garlic, salt, and pepper are the only other ingredients needed.

4 artichokes, preferably “romanesco” or “mammole”
neutral vegetable oil to immerse the artichokes
4 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon fine table salt (iodine-free to avoid bitterness)
freshly ground black pepper
peel from 1 lemon (optional)
a couple of sprigs of mint or preferably “mentuccia” (optional)

artichoke-mayonnaise:
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
3/4 cup of the artichokes’ cooking oil

artichoke vinaigrette:
1/3 cup of the artichokes’ cooking oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 pinches of salt plus more to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

  1. Wash, cut off stem and leave the artichokes whole. If you must, you can also clean the artichokes entirely and immerse artichokes in lemon water as directed above under “Clean & Prepare Artichokes.” (Also, halve them and take out their choke if preparing sous-vide.)
  2. Rub artichokes with salt and pepper. (For sous-vide, vacuum seal each half separately with two tablespoons of oil and half a clove of garlic. Skip to step 4.)
  3. Assemble in a pot that is just wide enough to hold the artichokes immersed half an inch in the oil. (To reduce the amount of oil needed, you could halve or even quarter the artichokes.) Add the optional lemon rinds and mint or mentuccia leaves.
  4. Cook at 180°F/82.2°C for 3 hours or until almost fork-tender.(A simple method to achieve this is to heat the pot with the oil and the artichokes on top of the stove checking the temperature constantly before transferring the pot to a 195°F/90°C oven. Check the temperature of the oil from time to time to see whether you have to slightly adjust the oven’s temperature up or down a few degrees.)
  5. Let the artichokes cool and leave them in their cooking oil until ready to serve.
  6. Whip up a mayonnaise by combining egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, red pepper flakes and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk until blended. Continue to whisk constantly then add the artichokes’ cooking oil to the yolk mixture in a slow drizzle starting with only a few drops at a time. This process should take about 5 minutes.
  7. Make a vinaigrette by combining the vinaigrette ingredients and mixing vigorously.
  8. Drain and serve still warm or at room temperature (but not chilled) accompanied by the mayonnaise or vinaigrette with a hearty piece of bread.
  9. Alternatively, you can cook the artichokes on a grill or quickly brown them in a skillet.

Artichokes Purée (from Stems and Scrapes)

leaves, stems, and scraps of 4 artichokes
2 cloves garlic crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
lemon zest to taste
1/2 cup mascarpone, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon fine table salt (iodine-free to avoid bitterness), plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. In a large pot, combine artichoke parts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt.
  2. Slowly sweat the artichoke covered until soft or until stems can be easily pierced. Take care not to let the artichoke parts stick to the bottom of the pot. Add a tablespoon of water if necessary.
  3. In a mixer, process cooked artichoke parts into a fine puree.
  4. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve.
  5. In a large bowl, add mascarpone, lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve warm or cold with toasted bread.
My pot of mentuccia romana (Clinopodium nepeta, Calamintha nepeta or lesser calamint). Mentuccia is a cross between mint and oregano and often used for carciofi alla romana. It is hard to come by outside of Italy, but if you are not used to the taste of mentuccia, you might prefer the combination of mint and parsley anyway. Make sure not to confuse this herb with “mentha romana,” which has a much stronger taste.
My pot of mentuccia romana (Clinopodium nepeta, Calamintha nepeta or lesser calamint). Mentuccia is a cross between mint and oregano and often used for carciofi alla romana. It is hard to come by outside of Italy, but if you are not used to the taste of mentuccia, you might prefer the combination of mint and parsley anyway. Make sure not to confuse this herb with “mentha romana,” which has a much stronger taste.
I like to buy fresh herbs for the carciofi at the weekly market like this one at the Lido in Venice. The Lido is where Sigmund Freud used to swim in the morning before visiting the city and shopping for antiques.
I like to buy fresh herbs for the carciofi at the weekly market like this one at the Lido in Venice. The Lido is where Sigmund Freud used to swim in the morning before visiting the city and shopping for antiques.

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Footnotes

  1. in: Riccardo Di Segni, Beteavon, buon appetito. Incontro di culture e ricette della cucina ebraico-romana. (Rome: GP; 2015).
  2. Franz Maier-Bruck, Das große Sacher-Kochbuch – Die österreichische Küche, (Vienna: Schuler/Pawlak, 1975), pp. 413-415.
  3. Quoted in Wheaton, Barbara Ketcham, Savoring the Past, (Touchstone Books, 1983) pp. 66–67. Cf. Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artichoke#Early_history_of_use (retrieved April 25th, 2018)
  4. Gil Marks, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (Hoboken: Wiley, 2010).
  5. Katja Behling-Fischer, Zu Tisch bei Sigmund Freud: Lebensweise, Gastlichkeit und Essgewohnheiten des Gründers der Psychoanalyse. Mit vielen Rezepten (Vienna: Brandstätter, 2000), p.61.
  6. If you are in Vienna don't miss the opportunity to visit the Theuringer artichoke production just outside Vienna: https://www.theuringer.at/
  7. Freud bought the cookbook in the 1890’s, and the family used it until Anna Freud’s death in 1982: Deutsche Kochschule in Prag, Sammlung von erprobten Speisevorschriften, (1894, 7th ed. 1914).
  8. Katja Behling-Fischer, Zu Tisch bei Sigmund Freud: Lebensweise, Gastlichkeit und Essgewohnheiten des Gründers der Psychoanalyse. Mit vielen Rezepten (Vienna: Brandstätter, 2000), p.61.
  9. Sigmund Freud, "Dream of the Botanical Monograph" in: The Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung, 1989 / New Translation by Joyce Crick; Oxford University Press, 2008)
  10. Cf. Élisabeth Roudinesco, Freud: In His Time and Ours (Paris: Seuil, 2014 / Catherine Porter, Translator; Harvard University Press, 2016) also quoting Carl Schorske, p. 105-106 in the French edition.
  11. Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time, (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1988), p.132.
  12. Postcard to Martha, September 3, 1891, in Élisabeth Roudinesco, Freud: In His Time and Ours (Paris: Seuil, 2014 / Catherine Porter, Translator; Harvard University Press, 2016), p.105 in the French edition.
  13. Élisabeth Roudinesco, Freud: In His Time and Ours (Paris: Seuil, 2014 / Catherine Porter, Translator; Harvard University Press, 2016), p. 349 in the French edition.
  14. There's also an Italian bitter liqueur called Cynar launched in 1952. Its dominant flavor is artichoke, from which the drink derives its name.
  15. Three of these examples have been given in Bruno Ciccaglione little book on artichokes (in Artischoke, Vienna, Mandelbaum “Kleine Gourmandisen”, 2016).
  16. escama par escamal
    desvestimos
    la delicia
    y comemos
    la pacifica pasta
    de su corazón verde.
    Pablo Neruda, Oda a la alcachofa, 1954 in: Odas elementales. (Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada; 1954). All the Odes: A Bilingual Edition. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2017)
  17. Sigmund Freud, "Dream of the Botanical Monograph" in: The Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung, 1989 / New Translation by Joyce Crick; Oxford University Press, 2008)
  18. Cf. Bruno Ciccaglione “Artischoke“ (Vienna: Mandelbaum “Kleine Gourmandisen”, 2016), p.12.
  19. Among many indirect sources I could quote I would attract attention once again to the little German language booklet by Bruno Ciccaglione “Artischoke“ (Vienna: Mandelbaum “Kleine Gourmandisen”, 2016), p.12.
  20. On this meaning of the word "carciofon" which is related to the Italian name "carciofo" of the vegetable discussed here see Bruno Ciccaglione “Artischoke“ (Vienna: Mandelbaum “Kleine Gourmandisen”, 2016), p.8.
  21. Katja Behling-Fischer, Zu Tisch bei Sigmund Freud: Lebensweise, Gastlichkeit und Essgewohnheiten des Gründers der Psychoanalyse. Mit vielen Rezepten (Vienna: Brandstätter, 2000), p.61.
  22. Israeli newspaper Haaretz broke the news about Israels Chief rabbi's ban on artichokes and followed up with this more detailed article (https://www.haaretz.com/food/.premium-artichoke-war-intensifies-as-rome-jews-insist-their-dish-is-kosher-1.5979149). Soon the big Jewish outlets reported about the outrage that broke out in Rome: The Jewish Daily Foward (https://forward.com/food/398393/rome-jews-fight-hard-for-their-legendary-artichoke/) and Tablet Magazine (http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/259936/italys-jews-to-israels-rabbinate-hands-off-our-artichokes). The New York Times sums up the affair a few days later (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/01/dining/jewish-artichokes-rome-kosher.html)
  23. Edda Servi Machlin, The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews, I: Traditional Recipes and Menus and a Memoir of a Vanished Way of Life (Croton-on-Hudson: Giro Press, [1981] 2nd & Revised ed. 1993), pp. 178-182. Also described in rich detail in Joan Nathan's latest installment King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World (New York: Knopf, 2017), pp. 70-74.
Nino Loss
Hi, I'm Nino, an unbridled foodnik blogging from Vienna, the city of dreams and Sigmund Freud. I'm cooking up a therapy with recipes and stories from Viennese cuisine and its eclectic influences – Jewish, Italian, Hungarian, Bohemian... – with an armchair psychoanalytical twist.

4 Comments

  1. Here is a video of a Jewish Roman home cook preparing the Jewish-style artichokes “alla giudia” with the famous, but not necessary (see recipe section on this page), two-step method:

  2. Here’s a video from the inside of one of the Roman restaurants famous for its “carciofi alla romana”, the Jewish-style artichokes, restaurant Giggetto. They demonstrate their technique to prepare the artichokes Jweish-style.

  3. From Venice, we get this video featuring four easy Venetian artichoke recipes among which a recipe for artichoke purée made from stems and scrapes.

  4. We recently ordered “carciofi alla romana” (Roman-style artichokes) at the highly acclaimed Roscioli gourmet grocery store, which also serves as bar and restaurant in Rome’s Via dei Giubbanori 21/22. Though the artichokes looked and tasted more like “carciofi sott’olio” (marinated artichokes) they were delicious with a very delicat taste. Roscioli is one of Rome’s oldest bakeries. The owners opened a delicatessen store a few years ago just around the corner from the original store. The meals they serve there, and obviously, their artichokes got rave reviews worldwide. Carciofi alla romana at the highly acclaimed Roscioli gourmet grocery store, which also serves as bar and restaurant in Rome's Via dei Giubbanori 21/22. One of Rome's oldest bakeries, Roscioli, opened a delicatessen store a few years ago. The meals they serve there, and obviously, their artichokes got rave reviews worldwide.

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