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Artful artichokes

creato da Maria Linardi ultima modifica 20/06/2008 15:12

There's nothing quite as delicious as Italian-style artichokes. Impress your friends by learning how to cook them as the Romans do . . .

Artichoke!When is a vegetable not a vegetable?, of course. Indeed artichokes are none other than the immature flowers of a member of the thistle family. The botanical name Cynara scolymus comes from the Greek kinara, while the work artichoke comes from the Arab al kharshuf.
Artichokes have long been appreciated for their medicinal properties. They are a well-known diuretic and are also used to treat illnesses such as jaundice and dropsy. When taken regularly artichokes can significantly lower blood cholesterol and help protect the liver against toxins and infections as well as stimulating liver cell re-growth. Artichokes are an important part of any detox regime helping to improve skin condition. And when you boil your artichokes, don't throw away the water - it makes a great conditioning rinse for your hair.

Let's not forget that this is a food column and there's nothing more delicious than freshly cooked artichokes! Here's a simple recipe to get you started . Buon appetito!

(Roman-style artichokes)
Ingredients (for 4 hungry people)
8 firm artichokes
lemon juice
flat-leafed parsley
clove of garlic
fresh mint
extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the artichokes by removing the tough outer leaves and trimming and peeling the stalks. Open the leaves and pull out the furry choke. Cover the prepared artichokes with water and lemon juice to prevent them from blackening. Finely chop the parsley, mint and garlic and press the mixture into each artichoke. Season and place upside down in a deep oven-proof dish. Add some oil to the pan then cover with water.
Cover the dish and bake at 200¡C for an hour. The artichokes are ready when almost all the water has evaporated. Enjoy hot or cold with a glass of dry white wine.

All about artichokes·
Ask any food-loving Italian about artichokes and the chances are they'll list off a litany of names. You've guessed it - artichokes come in a huge selection of shapes and colours. From the prickly green varieties from Liguriaand Palermo to the plump purple fruits from Venice, Chioggia, Tuscany and Sardinia. One of the most popular types is the smooth green Roman artichoke - known as mammola. Take care choosing your artichokes - they should be firm and solid. When you get them home place the stalks in water (remember, they are flowers). If you plan on storing them in the fridge then clean and trim them. Dry carefully and place in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container - they'll keep for up to 6 days. You can freeze artichokes that you have prepared and scalded in boiling acidulated water.

And don't be surprised to hear Italians calling each other carciofi- in slang an 'artichoke' is a numbskull!

Paestum artichoke - festival at
Cibus - International Food Show, May 9

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