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Artichoke parmigiana Delicious winter variation of the classic eggplant parmigiana it enhances artichokes of which Puglia has a large and excellent production, particularly in the province of Brindisi.
In the US the first Queen of the “Artichoke Festival” was Marilyn Monroe. And there is even a club for artichoke “aficionados”
by Dario Ersetti
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Artichoke parmigiana. Photo by Dario Ersetti

A plant of Mediterranean origin, the artichoke was already known in ancient times. It derives from the thistle, Cynara cardunculus, to which Romans and Greeks attributed aphrodisiac power.

Artichokes can be distinguished into thorny types (with bracts ending with a thorn) or harmless types, violet or green (according to coloring) and fall or spring types, according to the period in which they are gathered.

Italy is the first artichoke producer in the world and is also the first for consumption, so much so that we even have to import them. The area of Brindisi stands out among those where artichokes are most intensively produced. Apart from early produce, which makes it possible for this vegetable to be on the market as early as October, the Brindisi artichoke, which obtained the IGP denomination, is also characterized by the extreme softness and flavor of its flower heads. Moreover, thanks to its sweet taste it is particularly appreciated for raw consumption.

Other countries where artichoke-growing has a certain relevance are France, Spain and, in the United States, California. And exactly in California, Castroville, in Monterey County, has hosted the “Artichoke Festival” for more than fifty years. A curiosity? The first “Artichoke Queen”, crowned in 1948, during the first edition of the festival, was Norma Jeane Baker, who later became famous with the name of Marilyn Monroe. Also in Castroville the Artichoke Aficionados Club was founded for all those who love artichokes.

Even if artichokes are very widespread in Italy, cooking methods are relatively few. In a frying-pan “alla romana”, fried whole “alla giudìa” or stuffed are the best known recipes, whereas if you want to appreciate their taste even more, then it is better to eat them raw in a salad, grilled or fried.

The following recipe, “artichoke parmigiana”, can be eaten at various stages, since after the first stage, when the artichokes are fried, one could stop and eat them hot as soon as they are removed from the oil. The scottadito (burnt-finger) way, to be more precise.

 

 

The recipe

 

4 servings:

 

- 12 Brindisini artichokes

- hard wheat flour

- oil for frying (preferably extra virgin olive oil)

- 200 g of fresh scamorza cheese or mozzarella

- 200 cc of tomato sauce

- 100 g of grated Parmesan cheese

- a few basil and mint leaves

- salt

 

Clean the artichokes by removing the outer leaves, cut the upper parts with a sharp knife as if “sharpening a pencil” and leave 2 cm of their stalk. Place them in a bowl with water and a handful of parsley, or add lemon juice to prevent them from becoming dark. Cut them lengthwise into thin slices.

Dry the slices, dip them in flour and fry them in abundant oil. Rinse and place on absorbent paper, then salt slightly while they are still hot.

In a baking dish spread a few spoons of tomato sauce and place a layer of artichokes and one of mozzarella or scamorza cheese slices, spread some more tomato sauce, over this cover with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, basil and mint, and continue adding more layers until the ingredients are finished.

Bake at 180° C for approximately 30 minutes.

Instead of simple flour a rather liquid batter can be used: 2 eggs, 250 g flour, ice-cold water or beer, a pinch of salt.

In any case the result will be a delicious dish!

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