Healthy food in spring: Artichokes
New recipes from Ornella's spring cuisine
Hard shell soft core
Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus) are perennial plants from which only the budding blossom is harvested. Artichokes actually are edible flowers, as well as capers which are nothing but pickled flower buds. In our garden, the artichokes will not mature until later in the spring. But in southern Italy they are often harvested already in January.
Cleaning and preparing the artichokes is a bit of a tedious and lengthy job. So it's nice to do it in company, having a little chat, something that Ornella is always in the mood for. Approximately 20 artichokes later, I am up to date about just about everyone in her family!
When cleaning the artichokes, it is important that you cut off the hard woody outer petals, so that the bottom and the inner fleshy petals are exposed - of course, without cutting away too much of the soft and edible parts.
When the artichoke bud is already quite mature and about to flower, you will find inside the tubular seeds called "hay". They look like a tuft of hair and definitely do not feel good in the mouth! Therefore, they must be removed completely.
In order to avoid that the artichoke bottoms turn black, place them immediately in a bowl with cold water and a few slices of lemon. By the way: You can also clean your hands, which have become black from touching the artichokes, with lemon juice.
Good for your health
The artichoke is said to have an appetite-stimulating, digestive and cholesterol-lowering effect. Artichokes contain the bitter tasting substance cynarin, which stimulates the metabolism of the liver and bile. It also increases the formation of nitric oxide, a protective radical scavenger. However, you will probably have to eat a lot of artichokes to really benefit from these effects.
The pleasant effect of "Cynar", the Italian digestif made from artichokes, is probably rather due to the alcohol and not to the cynarin ...
But more importantly, artichokes are delicious, especially if they are fresh and not just floating around in oil as "artichoke hearts" or disappearing on a pizza under a layer of mozzarella ...
Carpaccio di carciofi con scaglie di parmigiano
Artichoke carpaccio with parmesan flakes
For 4 people
4 fresh artichokes, 2 lemons, olive oil, pepper, salt, Parmesan flakes*
Brush the artichokes, i.e. cut off the stems and outer leaves, divide into halves and remove any "hair" inside the artichoke. Put in cold water with lemon juice. Cut the artichokes into very thin slices, arrange on a plate, season with lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and salt. Spread the Parmesan flakes on the carpaccio and serve.
Tip: If your hands have become black while brushing the artichokes, rub them with lemon juice afterwards.
*To make the flakes use a potatoe peeler
Penne con carciofi e speck
Penne with artichokes and smoked ham
For 4 people
400 g penne rigate
100 g smoked ham in cubes
Grated peel of 1 untreated lemon
150 g of mature pecorino cheese, grated or in flakes
15 leaves of marjoram
about 100 ml of olive oil
1/2 diced onion
1/2 glass of white wine
salt and pepper
Clean the artichokes (see above), cut the artichoke bottoms into very fine strips and place in cold water.
Sauté the onion cubes in olive oil in a frying pan, add the ham cubes and the thinly chopped artichokes. Fry for 3 minutes, add the white wine, salt, pepper and simmer for another 3 minutes, then remove from the heat.
Cook the pasta "al dente", drain and mix with the artichoke sauce. Add the marjoram leaves, the grated pecorino and the grated lemon peel. Serve immediately.
Curious for more?
Ornella's recipes are easy to follow - just give it a try!
If you want to get deeper into the secrets of Umbrian and Tuscan cuisine and lifestyle, you can do so at our "Spring Cookery Class".
If you cannot make it to the cookery class in April 2019:
There is another cookery class in autumn from October 12 to 19, 2019.
Join us for our Culinary week!
During our culinary weeks you will get an even deeper insight into the eating and drinking culture of Umbria and Tuscany:
Hands-on cookery classes with Ornella, every day excursions to culinary insider tips, unusual restaurant visits, truffle hunting, wine tasting seminar and much more ...
This is the date for 2019:
November 2 to 9, 2019