Last month, The American University in Rome invited me to give a presentation on crowdfunding, creativity, and social activism. I discussed my experiences with Kickstarter, and told the story of how I funded my vegan cookbook – The Lotus and the Artichoke. I explained in detail how to use social media and crowdfunding to make dreams possible, promote and find support for projects, and to spread great ideas and inspire others. And then I opened things up for discussion and Q&A, and met the great folks in the audience. Then we ate up the 2 giant batches of Roasted Walnut Brownies that I made for the event. Yum!
This was my second visit to The Eternal City, and fourth trip to Italy. What made this visit so unique was having a project (the presentation) and an awesome apartment (and kitchen!) provided by the university. Instead of being a tourist, it was really like living there: I shopped at local markets, cooked several times a day, hung out with locals, enjoyed espresso on the apartment’s sunny terrace, walked miles and miles, rode the trams all around, and did my best to improve my language skills. It’s how I love to travel most. It’s great when it works out that way.
Any visit to Italy is bound to be spectacular: It’s easy to find excellent food – whether shopping for and preparing food yourself with gorgeous, fresh, and delicious ingredients, or dining out. The people are charming. The landscape and sights are breathtaking. The language is intoxicating. The wealth of history and culture is fascinating beyond words. The art and architecture are worth crossing the globe to experience. I could go on and on, but hey, let’s stick to food…
Did I mention awesome ingredients? Here’s the little fruit and vegetable shop outside my apartment in Trastevere neighborhood:
From the moment I saw the piles of fresh artichokes, I knew I wanted to write a new recipe with Carciofi – Artichokes! I’ve always loved the crazy vegetables. They’re super tasty, funny looking, and amusing to eat. So I decided to enlist some recipe research help. I talked to some friends, chatted with the guys at the produce shop, and went through my memories of eating steamed artichokes at the family dinner table growing up.
The last day of my stay, two local friends invited me for lunch at a tucked-away, totally old-school neighborhood Sardinian restaurant. My starter dish was the main inspiration for this recipe post. On the walk back to my apartment, I got three gorgeous globe artichokes. I packed them carefully into my backpack for the flight back to Berlin. (Unfortunately, I forgot the – yes, vegan – fresh gnocchi and tagliatelle in the apartment fridge. Oops!)
After getting back to Berlin, I got the ingredients together for a meal to honor my prized artichokes from Rome. I decided to keep it really simple. Sure, it takes some time to prep the artichokes, but I promise you: It’s so worth it. Most of the cooking time is just waiting for your artichokes to steam to perfection. The sun-dried tomato quinoa side is a quick and easy recipe that always pleases. It’s a spin-off of my tomato rice recipe in the cookbook. Buon Appetito!
Lemon Garlic Artichokes – with Sun-dried Tomato Quinoa
serves 2 to 3 / time 60 min
Steamed Lemon Garlic Artichokes:
- 3 large globe artichokes
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 Tbs lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
- 2/3 cup / 160 ml water
- 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Wash and trim the artichokes: Remove the coarse outer leaves. Cut off the top of the artichoke removing most or all of the hard and thorny leaf tips. Slice in half and scoop out and remove the furry core. Peel and trim the stem to remove some of the hard, tough exterior.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add pepper, garlic. Sauté until lightly browned, about 5 min.
- Add lemon juice, salt, and water. Bring to low simmer.
- Add trimmed artichokes. Cover and steam on low heat for 35-45 min, until very tender. Check and turn artichokes every 10-15 minutes as needed. Add slightly more water if needed.
- Serve in bowl or deep plate topped with remaining broth.
Sun-dried Tomato Quinoa:
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1/4 tsp black pepper ground
- 1/4 cup / 20 g sun-dried tomatoes chopped
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 1 cup / 180 g quinoa
- 1 Tbs vegetable broth powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups / 480 ml water
- Heat olive oil in small pot on medium heat.
- Add pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste. Mix well.
- Add quinoa, broth powder, salt. Fry 2 min, stirring constantly.
- Add water while stirring. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Steam 15-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with fork. Cover, let sit for 5 min.
How to Eat an Artichoke: Use your fingers to peel off any remaining outer leaves. Bite off the fleshy tender portion of the leaves and scrape off all edible bits of tasty artichoke with your teeth. Inner leaves can be eaten whole, as can the heart and stem if you’ve prepped them properly. It’s also possible to steam the entire artichoke and eat it by taking it completely apart and scraping off the edible parts with your teeth and discarding the rest, including the funny furry center. If you’re new to artichokes: Don’t worry, just have fun! Eat what tastes good and has a texture you like.
More photos from my stay in Rome:
p.s. Thank you to Kristen for her kindness, generosity, and assisting me with the arrangements for my visit as well as the opportunity to give my presentation at AUR. Kristen is a professor of digital media and the animation talent behind Veggie Propaganda on YouTube. (Here’s Veggie Propaganda on Facebook.)