For the love of artichokes

I love Canada, I really do.
And if I ever feel homesick, I only need to open the home page of any Italian newspaper online: just to read the main titles makes me realize how everything is better in Canada.
Well, not exactly everything.
Bread is better in Italy. And I don’t even want to comment on what people call “pizza” here in North America.
Cheese is better in Italy, and I regularly bring back some wherever I go home. And I don’t even want to comment on what people call “mozzarella” here in North America.
And of course, fresh produce is better in Italy… I so miss the taste of fresh produce actually ripened by the actual heat from the sun: bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini… and I don’t even want to comment on those things that people call “tomatoes” here in North America.
So, when the other day I saw these guys at the supermarket

I was already weakened by a long cold winter on squash and cauliflowers, and totally lost it.
Artichokes ARE spring. And we have been desperately in need of some spring up here.
I had three in my cart before even realizing I had grabbed them!
But my subconscious me must be a suspicious one, and took just three because they looked so different from the ones I am used to in Italy.
I decided to try them preparing carciofi ammollicati, a typical side from Calabria, my father’s family’s origin area: pan cooked artichokes, with small cubes of pecorino cheese, dried oregano and bread crumbs.
It’s very good, and very mediterranean.
Very recommended for homesickness.

But it was only when I tasted them to see if they were done that I finally realized my suspicious subconscious me was right: I should have discarded more leaves, as they were not tender enough.
If I were in Italy, I’d have thrown everything away and go straight to the greengrocer to ask him back my money.
But I can be headstrong and still call it perseverance.
So ok, the artichokes were not good to eat like that, but they could be easily converted into risotto.
Well, now, not even so easily, ’cause after creaming the artichokes with the hand blender, I had to pass the cream through a strainer to get rid of those hard barbs (some as hard as fishbones!)… but still, all is well that ends well.
Moreover, this risotto has a very restaurant-like look… even if you’d never say from my horrible picture. Clearly, my suspicious subconscious self must have been also discouraged… and didn’t prepare the camera, so the picture was taken with the phone. Sorry about that.


Ingredients, for 2 people:
3 artichokes
1 lemon
1 clove garlic
1 cup Arborio rice
20 gr pecorino cheese
1 pinch dried oregano

First of all, fill a bowl with cold water, and squeeze the juice of one lemon into it.
Start cleaning the artichokes: cut the stem at the base, peel it and put it in the bowl to prevent it from getting dark.
Then throw away all the external, tough, darker leaves until you reached the internal light green ones. If you are in doubt, take away another round of leaves: the tough leaves will prove unchewable even cooked for a loooooong time… so you want to be sure you discarded them all.
Cut the top third of each artichoke to get rid of the spiky tips. Then cut each artichoke in half, to scoop away the inner spiky choke.
Finally cut each half into wedges and throw the wedges in the lemon water.
In a pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil with a garlic clove, and cook the artichokes until tender, about 20 minutes.
Discard the garlic, allow the artichokes to cool and then work the artichokes into a cream with an hand blender or a food processor.
Make risotto.
Meanwhile cut a small slice of pecorino cheese, and then crumble it into small pieces, add one generous pinch of dried oregano.
When risotto is ready, mix the artichoke cream into it.
Sprinkle the cheese & oregano mix on each dish before serving.


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