Artsy artichokes

Don’t miss out on artichokes, which are now at the height of their season.

Artsy artichokes  (photo credit:  Aya Vind)
Artsy artichokes
(photo credit: Aya Vind)
I f you didn’t grow up eating artichokes, they might seem a little intimidating at first. How one cooks and eats an artichoke is not obvious from its appearance. But once you get the hang of it, you will be hooked.
In season from November until May and at their peak during March and April, the globe artichoke is a perennial thistle originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. Rich in vitamins and minerals, it is considered beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels among other health benefits, but the real reason to cook them is that they are simply so good and so versatile.
This most flavorful of all thistles can grow as high as two meters. The part we eat is the flower bud.
Noam’s Artichokes was one of the first farms to grow this vegetable in Israel. Three generations of farmers live and work on the farm, which is located in Nir Banim, a moshav in the northern part of the Lachish region. During the winter months, the farm is open to visitors, serving a rich artichoke-based menu and offering other activities such as guided tours to the fields. The following recipes were developed for the farm by chef Eyal Lavi .
This is a base for many dishes. Make more than you need, as it is very likely that you will not be able to resist munching on them while cooking.
✔ 5 to 10 artichokes, depending on the number of diners ✔ Extra-virgin olive oil ✔ Coarse salt ✔ Freshly ground black pepper ✔ Thyme ✔ 2-3 garlic cloves ✔ Parchment paper ✔ Aluminum foil
Heat oven to 180º. Cut off the tops of the artichoke heads and the stems, leaving the central part and hearts of the flower. Arrange the artichokes in a deep baking dish. If you want to use the stems as well, peel them and place them between the heads. Pour olive oil halfway up the height of the artichokes. You may use half water and half oil. Sprinkle salt, pepper and thyme leaves on top. Stick a few whole garlic cloves between the artichoke heads (optional).
Cover with parchment paper and seal tightly with two layers of aluminum foil.
Bake about 1 hour. Test with a sharp knife – the artichokes should be tender.
Carefully remove covers and let cool.
When cool, gently remove the “hairs” using a teaspoon, leaving a well to be filled according to a chosen recipe. Chill for later use.
✔ 5 or 6 prepared confit artichokes (recipe above) ✔ 1 ⁄ 2 cup semi-hard yellow cheese, cubed ✔ 4 roasted or sun-dried tomatoes in oil ✔ 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced ✔ Handful chopped parsley ✔ 1 ⁄ 4 cup pine nuts ✔ 2 to 3 Tbsp. bread crumbs ✔ 3 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated ✔ Salt and pepper
Mix together all the filling ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill the artichokes and bake at 200º for 10 minutes. Serve hot.
✔ 5 or 6 prepared confit artichokes (recipe above) ✔ 250 gr. fresh fillet of fish, finely chopped ✔ 200 gr. roasted tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes in oil ✔ 3 pickled lemons, pitted and chopped ✔ 1 ⁄ 2 onion, chopped ✔ 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced ✔ 1 ⁄ 4 fresh chili, seeds removed (optional) ✔ Handful chopped coriander leaves ✔ Pinch ground coriander seeds ✔ Pinch ground cumin seeds ✔ Pinch ground fennel seeds ✔ 1 ⁄ 4 tsp. turmeric ✔ Salt and pepper ✔ Olive oil
Mix together all the filling ingredients, season to taste and stuff the artichokes.
Bake in a 200º oven for 10 minutes and serve hot.