Now is the time to make the most of fresh, seasonal artichokes. Food 52 explains why braising is the best way to enjoy the elegant vegetable.
The season is leaning toward spring, when artichokes show up at the market, big and bulbous, taunting you to pick them up and ring them like bells. And after you’re done satisfying your childlike wonder by waving them around like the little, nubby scepters they are, it’s time to take them home and experiment.
Fresh artichokes — not their stripped down and squishy jarred counterparts — are a sight to behold. They’re one of the most elegant vegetables out there, hard green and purple leaves unfurling to reveal a pliable, flavorful center. They take to many forms of cooking, but one of their sweetest spots is achieved through braising.
In Food52 columnist Emiko Davies’ cookbook “Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence,” the chapters are each dedicated to the places you might visit to prepare for a meal, or eat one, in the great Italian city, like La Pasticceria (The Pastry Shop) and Il Forno (The Bakery). In the chapter Il Mercato (The Market), carciofi ritti, or whole braised artichokes, is one of the first recipes you encounter. It’s not a new recipe by any means: You’ll find it in many a Florentine trattoria at the height of spring.
Whole artichokes’ tough outer leaves are removed and their tops chopped off so that they can be stuffed with a sautéed mixture of their stems, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and then braised in white wine. Emiko injects some modernity into her stuffing by adding pancetta, garlic, and celery leaves.
Carciofi ritti (named for the way they are cooking “standing up”) are plump, melting, whole stuffed artichokes, cooked in a simple Tuscan manner until you can cut them like butter. It’s the sort of dish you’ll find at the height of artichoke season in the most Florentine of trattorie. They make a very good side dish to accompany a roast but are equally good on their own as a light meal with some good bread and extra virgin olive oil.