Fried artichokes from the Jewish Roman tradition The most ancient Jewish community outside of Israel is possibly to be found in Rome, where surely the citizens of oldest Roman descent today are those of Jewish origin, come to the capital of the Roman Empire well before the birth of Jesus.
In any case, the oldest Roman culinary tradition is certainly Jewish and possibly the most delightful. This recipe is a staple on Roman tables, and not only those of the old Ghetto restaurants, as autumn unfolds with its harvest of artichokes.
• 12 artichokes, Roman variety
• 2 fresh lemons
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 2 cups olive oil
Choose the larger, rounder variety of artichokes called “Roman” or “mamme”. Remove the darker, tougher, leaves on the outside of each artichoke. Cut off all but a few centimetres of the stem, peeling off the outer, bitter layer. Slice off one inch from the top of the artichoke, then, with a small sharp knife, cut off the tougher part on the top of each leaf, starting from the base of the artichokes and working your way up, in a circular fashion, so that only the lighter and more tender part of the leaves are left and the vegetable is round-shaped.
Slam the artichoke on a hard surface and spread it slightly open so to be able to scoop out the fuzz you’ll find at its heart. Set each artichoke in a bowl of water and lemon juice as you finish trimming to prevent discoloration. Once ready, drain them well and pat them dry. Spread them open and, gripping the artichoke from the stem, slam it down on your work surface repeatedly, to loosen the leaves so that the petals of the artichoke open out like a flower in bloom. Once they’re all open season them with salt and freshly ground pepper.
In a large earthenware pan, over medium heat, heat up at least 1-1/2 inches of the olive oil – enough for the artichokes to float on the surface. Add the artichokes in batches, side by side and stem up.
Cook the artichokes until the outsides are golden, about 20 minutes. During frying, occasionally sprinkle the tops of the artichokes with cold water, producing steam that helps to cook the interior. Drain them well.
Place top side down on a plate and let stand at least 1 hour. Reheat the oil. Holding each artichoke by the stem, dip into the oil, pressing the leaves against the bottom of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.