Carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish-Style Artichokes)
It seems that any dish that has the word Jewish in its name is fried. “Jewish fish” is actually fried fish, which, when introduced to Britain by late seventeenth-century Sephardic refugees, evolved into fish and chips. A Jewish-style artichoke (right in the photo above), which is a family favorite, adopted from Sephardic Roman-Jewish cuisine via my Moroccan granny is a fried and seasoned artichoke that tastes like potato chips. In my family, we usually eat this during Chanukah, when it is customary to eat fried foods, as well as during Passover.
- 4 fresh Romanesco artichokes*
- 2 lemons
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 pints extra virgin olive oil (or enough for deep-frying)
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar (optional)
- Optional Seasoning
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon harissa
- ½ cup parsley, chopped (packed tightly)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Clean and cut the artichokes: Cut the lemons in half and squeeze into a large bowl. First rub your hands with the juice; then fill the bowl with cold water to make a lemon-water solution. The lemon juice keeps your hands from turning black when cleaning the artichokes, and the lemon-water solution, in which the artichokes will be soaked, prevents them from turning brown.
- Pull off the tough outer leaves of the artichoke. Stop when you get to the tender/edible ones, which have a lighter color base. Use a paring knife (preferably with a curved blade) to completely remove the upper half of the leaves with a rotating/horizontal cut all the way to the center, so the artichoke looks like an open rose. Cut off the bottom of the stem if it's too long, and remove the scales at the base of the artichoke and the fibrous outer part of the stem using the paring knife.
- Soak the artichoke in the lemon-water solution for 10 minutes, making sure that it is completely submerged. (Tip: Use a saucer to keep it down.) Repeat with the remaining artichokes.
- After 10 minutes, take the artichokes out of the lemon-water solution and place them upside down to drain. Shake each artichoke with a brisk motion to remove excess water or beat them against each other to do so. Open up the leaves a little and pat dry with paper towels.
- Deep-fry the artichokes: 5 minutes into the soaking of the first artichoke, pour the olive oil into a deep fryer, deep saucepan or wok that can hold 2 to 3 inches of oil, and heat to about 300 degrees.
- Carefully lower an artichoke into the hot oil, and fry, turning over occasionally, for at least 10 to 15 minutes until they are a deep golden brown. When the bottom of the artichoke pierces easily and a leaf can be removed easily, it is done. Place upside-down on paper towels and dab to drain the oil, being careful to keep the flower-like shape intact. Let it cool. Then gently pull the leaves apart to expose the center so it looks like an opened flower.
- Repeat with the remaining artichokes, one at a time. Remove the oil from the heat, but do not discard yet.
- If you used an artichoke variety with a fuzzy choke and thorns or inedible center leaves, you will now see them and need to remove them; pull out the choke or scoop it out with a spoon.
- No more than half an hour before serving, season the inside of each artichoke with salt and pepper to taste OR combine all of the ingredients for the optional seasoning mix and fill each artichoke with ¼ of it, rubbing and tucking it in between the leaves and center of the artichoke.
- Then heat the oil again, and deep-fry again for a couple of minutes to enhance the crispiness. Again, drain on paper towels and dab, being careful to preserve flower-like shape, and repeat with remaining artichokes. If using, drizzle each artichoke with 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
- * Tip for choosing artichokes: Select deep green artichokes that are not hairy or thorny and are compact and heavy in proportion to their size, with fleshy, firm leaves that are tightly closed and “squeak” when pressed together. Old artichokes look dry and woody with heavy browning or the leaves have begun to spread apart.