Carciofi alla Giudia

A Judeo-Roman culinary tradition…the Artichoke

Artichokes Jewish style, history and culture in a dish. Famous and appreciated throughout Italy, the Jewish artichokes are one of the most delicious dishes of Italian culinary tradition, but how many of you know the origin and history of this dish?

Borrowed from the ancient Judeo-Roman tradition, the particular way of frying artichokes originated long ago in the kitchens of capital Rome, and entered fully into the heritage of Lazio culinary tradition.  This culinary tradition  was enriched over the centuries of influences and contamination but remaining closely tied to farming traditions and peculiarities of the city of Rome.

High influence ultimately came from the Jewish cuisine of the Rome Ghetto where local traditions introduced delicious dishes such as anchovy and endive pie and the famous carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish style artichokes).

An ancient Jewish recipe

The original recipe originated in the Jewish ghetto of Rome and was already mentioned in 16th century cookbooks. The Jewish cuisine of the Ghetto was a rich and refined cuisine, made up of sweet pastries like ricotta cake and biscotti as well as zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies, Baccala’ or, indeed, the artichokes.

The origin of the name of the Jewish artichokes

Whole fried artichokes, which characterize this recipe, have been called alla Giudia because associated by popular tradition of the Yom Kippur feast. They have now become a popular dish of the Easter menu.

Jewish artichokes traditional recipe requires to use mammole, the round artichoke from the Lazio region that does not have needles and are soft and delicate to be eaten whole and without waste. The recipe can be prepared in a few simple steps

Ingredients

4 Artichokes (or 20 baby artichokes)

6 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Juice of 2 Lemons

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the artichokes by cleaning them. Eliminate the tough outer leaves until you get to the softer inner ones (1). Start with the outer leaves (2), cut to remove each layer taking care not to nick the leaf below (3).

The artichokes is now round and looks like a rose (4). Peel the outer layer of the  stem (5) and the part where the external leaves where attached. (6).

Soak the artichokes in lemon water for at least 10 minutes (7). Remove the artichokes from the water, strain and dry (8) and beat two artichokes together until the leaves begin to open. Heat enough oil to cover the artichokes to approximately 280-300F. Place the artichokes in the hot oil for 10-15 minutes until they are cooked but not too soft (9) – use a fork to test the artichoke base.

Remove from oil and strain upside down on a plate for 20 minutes(so to remove excess oil) and with a fork open the leaves outward (like a bloomed rose) (10). Generously salt and pepper (11) and let them rest for a few minutes.

Spritz with water (or white wine) and immerge once again in the oil – raise the temperature slightly. Remove after about 1 minute and strain on paper towel.

Serve warm. (12) and….buon appetito!