Artichokes

Introduction and Preparation

(“Carciofi” – “Cacocciuli”)

 

Artichokes grow abundantly in Sicily, especially in the North-West part of the Island.
The artichokes are perennial plants and usually they deliver a crop in late summer and one in late autumn. The artichokes were called kinara by the Greeks and cynara by the Romans until the Arab invasion of Sicily, when the name was changed to al kharshuf, in Italian “il carciofo”.

In the United States, artichokes are mostly cultivated in California and around the city of Castroville. There are vast plantations of this vegetable so big that they stretch from one side of the horizon to the opposite side, with such a huge production that they are able to supply the American markets and the processing plants all year around.

 

 

The varieties of the artichokes are set by the wet or dry weather, by the humidity and by the intensity of the clouds. 
The “Verdi di Palermo”, a variety of pointed shaped artichoke, with hard thorns and tender edible parts, is widely grown in Sicily and they are harvested in late autumn.
“Verdi Liguri, Toscani and Veneti” are varieties related to the “Verdi Palermo” and grown respectively in Liguria, Tuscany and in the Venetian fields. Round shaped artichokes called “domestichi” are harvested in late spring and in Sicily, they are the preferred quality by the housewives.
In late spring the “mammole” globe shaped artichokes are harvested in the area of Catania. They are tender, light in color and pulpy. The romaneschi is another well known variety with similar characteristics and grown around Rome.

The climate in the Central Coast of California, around Castroville makes it possible for us to enjoy the round tender and pulpy artichokes in the spring and the conical shaped, purplish flower of the chokes in autumn and winter.

Artichokes are very versatile, perfect for a snack, a side dish, to make stuffed, to barbeque or to fry, cook in a thousand ways or to simple boil and eat the leaves one at a time by holding the base between your teeth and pulling the leaf out, scrapping the leaf with your teeth and eating the pulpy part. The edible part of the leaves can be eaten plain or dipped in olive oil mixed with vinegar, salt and pepper. Boiled artichokes are the easiest way to cook them: simple, effortless and delicious.

Generally all cooks use the same basic ingredients but by adding a different component, mostly abundant in the area, it can transform and enhance the taste of the artichokes to make a difference from the town just a few miles away.

In Sicily there are many ways to cook artichokes. Every town, small or big has recipes or way of cooking them to make this popular vegetable a tasty, delicious and nutritious treat.
They are dipped in various kinds of batters or simply lightly coated with flour and fried. They are sautéed, stewed, made in a frittata or as a condiment for a pasta dish and also in a very favorite and successful way, they are stuffed with various and different fillings.
Artichokes can also be roasted, barbequed, baked, fried, in a salad or attuppati, covered with a mixture of breadcrumbs, eggs, herbs, pinoli, raisins and cooked in a light tomato sauce.

At Joe’s, our Sicilian eatery, La Focacceria Palermitana, most of the time we cooked the artichokes with a stuffing made of breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, spices and salted anchovies or just with parsley and garlic; at times we baked them “alla viddanedda”, country style or sautéed with garlic to serve as a side dish, or as a condiment for a pasta dish or to make a delicious frittata.

Artichokes have good taste and can be prepared in advance and heated in the oven at the last minute, to compliment a simple dinner or a sumptuous banquet.

 

 

 

 CookingArtichokes

 

Artichoke Recipes  

Artichokes- Introduction and Preparation  (Carciofi - Cacocciuli) 

Baked Artichokes Alla Contadina-Viddanedda 

  

Stuffed Artichockes: 

Stuffed Artichokes Carciofi Ripieni - Cacocciuli Chini) 

Stuffed-Attuppati   Palermo Style (Cacocciuli Attuppati 'a Palermitana) 

Sicilian Style Stuffed Artichokese(Carciofi Farciti alla Siciliana - Cacocciuli Chini) 

Stuffed Palermo Style  ( Farciti alla Palermitana - Cacocciuli Chini)  

Messina Style   ( Carciofi Farciti- Cacocciuli'a Messinisi) 

Catania Style   (Carciofi alla Catanese - Cacocciuli 'a Catanisi) 

Syracuse Style   (Carciofi Ripieni - Cacocciuli Chini 'a Siracusana) 

Ragusa Style    (Cacocciuli Chini co' Cascavaddu Rausanu) 

Caltanissetta Style   (Carciofi alla Nissena - Chini 'a Nissinisi) 

Agrigento Style   (all'Agrigentina - Cacocciuli 'a Girgintana) 

Trapani Style   (alla Trapanese - Cacocciuli Chini 'a Fucuneddu) 

Enna Style (alla Ennesse - Cacocciuli Chini 'o Piacentinu) 

 

 

In Sicily there are many ways to cook artichokes. Every town, small or big has recipes or ways of cooking them to make this popular vegetable a tasty, delicious and nutritious treat. Mainly all cooks use the same basic ingredients but by adding a different component, mostly abundant in their own area, it can transform and enhance the taste to make a difference from town to town, just a few miles away.
All over Sicily the artichokes are boiled and eaten dipped in olive oil and vinegar; also they are dipped in various kinds of batters or simply lightly coated with flour and fried. They are sautéed, stewed, made in a frittata or as a condiment for a pasta dish and stuffed in many ways.
In the province of Messina, artichokes are stuffed with cured meat; in other towns the almonds and capers are the main ingredients for the stuffing, and artichokes roasted in the open fire, with garlic and oil are very popular in other parts of Sicily.
In the province of Agrigento, they make artichoke “incanalati- stuffed with parsley, garlic, drizzled with olive oil and baked in an open fire between two Spanish tiles and covering the top tile with burning charcoal. 
In Enna the garlic is mixed with onions and pecorino, without breadcrumbs. In Trapani the anchovies and the capers are present in many preparations and always in the stuffed artichokes.
In Palermo, the artichokes are made stuffed, sautéed, fried, baked “alla viddanedda” country style, or “attuppati”, -otturati- meaning closed up and with a stuffing made of a mixture of eggs breadcrumbs, herbs, pinoli, raisins, meat, garlic, sautéed and stewed in a light tomato sauce. 
Preparing the artichokes for cooking may appear as a complicated and boring accomplishment, on the contrary it is easy and can get done in little time.
Usually one artichoke is served for each person, but you can prepare a few extra, they are delicious the next day but rarely there are any left over!

 

 

Preparation of Artichokes

 

When preparing artichokes for cooking, wear utility gloves so you can avoid staining your hands. Prepare a basin with water, acidulated with the juice of a lemon, to soak the artichokes after they are trimmed, to prevent discoloration. 
Remove stem and discard hard outer leaves, the first 2 or 3 rows, until the artichoke’s leaves became light in color and usually tender. Trim base cutting enough of it so that the artichoke can stand up in the cooking pot. Cut off one-third of the petals eliminating the pointy top.

To make stuffed artichokes, bang them on the counter or cutting board to loosen the leaves, press them upside down and spread the petals apart so they can be filled with the stuffing.

 

                         


Keep the artichokes in the acidulated solution until ready to cook them.

If you need halves, for baking, cut the artichokes in half the long way, eliminate and discard the prickly leaves in the center and the choke, the filament non edible part at bottom of the artichokes.

To sauté or stew, after eliminating the pointy top, remove a few more outside petals of the artichokes, until the leaves are tender and light in color.
Cut them in half the long way and eliminate the prickly leaves from the inside and the choke, the filament non edible part at bottom of the artichokes; then cut each half in three parts and place in the acidulated water until ready to cook them.