Baby Artichoke Salad

(serves 4)

In Italy, artichokes are believed to have all kinds of restorative powers. Growing up at Vipore, we always fed the tough outer leaves to our rabbits because it helped them digest their food and made their meat more tender. I remember in the 50s and 60s, there was even a famous amaro, or bitter, named Cynar, which was made from an artichoke base. Its slogan was Bevi Cynar Contro il Logorio della vita Moderna (Drink Cynar to combat anxiety and stress of modern life). The ad showed a radiantly calm man drinking Cynar in the middle of a traffic jam.

  • 16 baby artichokes
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 4 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 bunches arugula, well washed
  • ΒΌ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Peel the outer leaves from the artichokes until you reach the part where the leaves are mostly a creamy yellow. Cut the top inch off the artichoke and trim away the stem so that you are left with a golf-ball-size artichoke heart. If you arent going to eat the salad right away, put the artichokes into a bowl of water with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. To prevent the artichokes from turning black, lay a paper towel on top of the water to keep air from getting to them. Refrigerate.

When you are ready to prepare the salad, drain the artichokes and slice them lengthwise as thin as possible. (If you have an electric slicer, thats ideal.) Place the artichokes in a bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of the lemon juice, the olive oil, salt and pepper, and oregano. Toss.

Divide the arugula among 4 plates. Top each plate with some artichoke mixture. Shave slices of Parmigianno-Reggiano over each salad and serve.

Artichokes

Artichokes are very reactive. They turn your hands black and turn black themselves if exposed to air too long. When I prepare artichokes, I always wear surgical gloves, a trick that’s useful in handling any food that might stain your skin, like beets, or leave it smelling unholy, like Gorgonzola or garlic. When you work with artichokes, don’t touch other foods, otherwise the artichoke will turn bitter. At the end, wash your hands with lemon juice.