Deep Fried Artichokes (Carciofi alla Giudia)

DSC_0833aExactly four years ago, I drove down Route 1 in California from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  Of course I vividly remember the spectacular coastline of Big Sur, I remember an elephant seal sanctuary near Hearst Castle (male elephant seals make a colossal racket when they’re fighting for territory), and I remember a creepy motel in Carmel. But, oddly, one of my clearest memories is the fried artichokes sold at farmstands along the roadside. Warm, salty, comfortingly greasy in a paper sack and undoubtedly bad for you, deep-fried artichokes will forever make me think of California.

My romance with fried artichokes began the first time I ate carciofi alla giudia (literally, artichokes in the Jewish style), which are fried artichokes sold in Kosher restaurants in the old Jewish quarter of Rome. Roman-style fried artichokes are made differently and more simply than the fried artichokes I ate in California. There is no batter. Purists won’t even flour their artichokes, although I do because I think it adds texture and helps bind the seasoning to the artichokes. Continue reading

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Fried Smelt

In the Rue Montorgeuil, in Paris, is a fishmonger who’s got my number. Not literally! (Not yet, anyway.) He knows I can’t resist nice seafood – and, more than that, he knows I eat everything. Yesterday, as I was walking past, he beckoned me over. It was a hot day and most of the seafood was covered or in boxes. He lifted the lid of a Styrofoam box like he was unveiling a great secret. Inside were beautiful little bright silvery fish, 10 euros a kilo! In French, éperlan. In English, SMELT! Continue reading

Tostones

Plantains are totally the flavour of the week. They may even be the flavour of the month. I am EXCITED by plantains.

Like bananas, plantains come from herbaceous plants (neat, right?), but plantains are starchier and denser than bananas and so they are a fabulously versatile cooking ingredient. They can be fried, braised, roasted, mashed, boiled, steamed … Continue reading