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  • Writer's pictureFay Walsh

Jewish Fried Artichokes

carciofi alla giudea is an ancient and perfect recipe that likely dates back a thousand years.

When my husband and I arrived in Rome, we trekked to the Jewish ghetto to try the deep-fried Jewish Artichoke Anthony Bourdian raved about at Nonna Betta. The restaurant was packed with tourists from across the globe, eagerly awaiting their first true artichoke experience. There wasn't a table near us that didn't place an order for the crispy delight.


The Jews in Rome


Arco di Tito, built in 82 AD, is the oldest surviving arch in Rome. The carvings celebrate Titus’ victories, most prominently the 70 AD siege of Jerusalem.


Why Fried Artichokes?


In his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, historian Gil Marks explains that non-Jewish Italians disliked artichokes so much they referred to them as “the Jewish vegetables.” The Jews eventually took to frying these veggies over an open fire when running water went scarce in the Jewish ghetto around 1500.


Artichoke Season


March through May is considered peak artichoke season, so now is the perfect time to try this ancient dish yourself and create a culinary excursion to Rome in your kitchen. American globe artichokes are the next best thing to Italian artichokes and are available at any grocery store.


 


Fried Artichokes

by Joan Nathan for the New York Times


  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

  • Juice and rind of 2 lemons

  • 8 American globe artichokes

  • Olive oil for frying


 

  1. Mix salt and pepper in a small bowl. Fill a large bowl with water and add juice and rinds of lemons. Set both bowls aside.

  2. Using a sharp paring or bird’s beak knife, shave off the tough outer leaves of artichokes until you reach the tender pale green or yellow leaves and create a bulbous shape. Cut off at least an inch of the thorny top. Trim the stem near the heart, peeling off the outer green fiber and leaving about 2 inches of stem if possible. Immediately put the artichokes in the lemon water to prevent browning.

  3. Fill an electric fryer or deep cast-iron enameled pot with enough oil to almost cover artichokes. Heat to 325 degrees. While oil is heating, dry artichokes well with paper towels. Tap the flat top of the cut artichoke against the table to loosen the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, rubbing in the seasoning.

  4. Fry artichokes in batches. Cook, turning occasionally with tongs, for about 15 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the stem at its thickest point. The outside should be bronzed.

  5. Remove artichokes from oil and drain well, stem side up, on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Gently open leaves to remove choke (using a grapefruit spoon or melon baller) and encourage the leaves to spread. You can now freeze them or leave them out, stem side up, for a few hours until ready to finish.

  6. When ready to serve, reheat the oil to 350. Working in batches again, return artichokes, stem side up, to hot oil just to crisp. Drain well and serve immediately with a sprinkle of salt. Eat with your fingers.

recipe courtesy The New York Times.

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