Artichokes One of those vegetable that the whole world would like to have, artichokes are flowers to a plant similar to cardoons. There are many different varieties and they are usually found during winter, until late spring. Almost every region has its special kind: from the violet one form Tuscany, to the thorny one from Sardinia, to the “romanesco” also known as “mammola” from Rome, to the one from Chioggia, or the small “castraure”, usually found at the end of the season.
If they are fresh and tender, they are great if eaten raw, in a salad or in “pinzimonio”: after taking off the hardest external leaves, cut off the tip, cut the artichoke in half and get rid of the internal tassel if there’s any. If you want to savor them in a salad, slice them thinly, if you prefer them in pinzimonio, cut them in quarters or in eights depending on the size of the artichoke.
the stem is usually removed and its easier to use once cooked (without the tough ending, the spiny leaves and the external fibres) although if its very tender you can slice it up in small sticks and use this one as well for the pinzimonio.
Artichokes are excellent cooked too, but you’ll have to detach the hardest external leaves, get rid of the tip and the internal tassels, cut the stem off and follow the process described above.
Depending on the preparations you can cut them differently or you can leave them whole: for example “castraure” are very small and tender artichokes, so you’ll just need to get rid of the external leaves and the tip. On the inside the practically don’t have ani tassels and they are very good just cut in half, covered in flour or in batter and then fried. Roman artichokes are used in a typical dish from jewish cuisine – “alla Giudìa” artichokes -, where the whole artichoke gets fried, even them stem, after having removed the external leaves and the tips and having opened the flower a bit.
In Veneto, especially in the lagoon area, you can find “fondi di carciofo”, an excellent specialty that can be stewed in a pan with garlic and minced parsley. “Fondi” are literally the bottom part of artichokes, between the leaves and the stem, usually removed from the artichoke when it’s not that fresh or it has very hard leaves. You can find them frozen too.