Welcome Spring with this Fresh-Tasting Raw Salad
Artichokes need some taming before they’re kitchen ready. That’s because they’re actually thistles. The mature plant has an inedible choke and sharp thorns. So we need to trim them.
Then we need to cook the artichokes before we consume them. Usually.
Would you believe you can eat artichokes raw? Well, you can, although you have to prepare them properly. Which means slicing them thinly (i.e., shaving them) so they’re easy to eat.
Why bother, you might ask, when a cooked artichoke is so delicious served with melted butter or Hollandaise Sauce? Well, because it’s nice to have variety. Besides, you’ve never really tasted an artichoke until you’ve eaten one raw — the flavor has a whole ‘nother dimension.
Toss a shaved artichoke with some mushrooms, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil, and you have a salad fit for royalty.
That’s you, right?
Recipe: Shaved Artichoke and Mushroom Salad
The peak season for artichokes is spring, so if they’re not already plentiful and well-priced in your local stores, they soon will be. You can make this salad with either baby artichokes or mature globe ones.
The procedure discussed here follows the same principle we used in making Shaved Fennel Salad and Chopped Kale Salad. This method is ideal with baby artichokes — they haven’t yet developed chokes, so you just trim off some of the leaves and slice them thinly. But you can prepare mature artichokes almost the same way (you just need to do some extra trimming). Because baby artichokes are harder to find (and often expensive), I’m making this salad with mature ones (but I include instructions in the Notes for making it with baby artichokes).
Artichokes tend to discolor as soon as they’re cut. But acid stops that process, so just rub cut surfaces with a lemon half immediately upon slicing. Ideally, you will clean and shave both the artichokes and the mushrooms right before you mix this salad, so discoloration will be minimal. If you wish to prep the artichokes ahead of time, you can do so — but you’ll have to store them in water that contains about 10% lemon juice or vinegar (this will keep them from discoloring). Just dry them right before mixing the salad.
My recipe is adapted from one I saw in the March 2002 issue of Gourmet Magazine. Preparation time is about 20 minutes.
One mature artichoke will make one very generous first-course serving. My recipe calls for 2 large artichokes (maybe 12 or so ounces each), which makes about enough for 3 normal-sized first-course servings (or 4 small ones). But if there are only two of you, don’t worry — you’ll happily snarf it all down.
- 2 large artichokes
- 1 lemon, halved, for rubbing on the surface of cut artichokes
- 2 - 4 large white mushrooms (you want roughly the same quantity of sliced mushrooms as you have sliced artichokes)
- 1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (or to taste)
- 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
- 2 teaspoons chopped parsley (Italian works best, but use the curly if you prefer)
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (cheese should be well packed into cup before measuring)
- For each artichoke, cut off stem and discard; rub the cut spot with lemon half to prevent discoloration. With a sharp knife, cut off the top inch or a bit more of the artichoke. With your fingers, bend back the outer leaves and snap them off close to the base of the artichoke. Keep doing this until you reach inner leaves that are yellowish with pale green tips. At this point, cut the leaves off again until they’re roughly flush with the top of the artichoke bottom. Pull out any remaining leaves (there will be some purple ones) and with a spoon (or melon-ball cutter), scoop out the fuzzy choke. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon half. Using a paring knife, trim any fibrous parts from the base (when you snap off the leaves, a bit of stem remains). Again, rub all cut surfaces with lemon half.
- Rinse any dirt from the mushrooms and wipe dry. Cut off the stems. With a sharp knife or vegetable slicer (or mandoline — be careful you don’t cut your fingers!) slice (shave) the mushrooms as thinly as possible. Place in a medium-sized bowl, and toss with half the lemon juice.
- Now slice (shave) the artichokes as thinly as possible with a knife, vegetable slicer, or mandoline. Add to the mushroom slices, add the rest of the lemon juice, and toss to coat.
- Add half the olive oil, and toss. Add the chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and the rest of the olive oil. Toss to combine.
- Add about ¾ of the grated Parmesan cheese and toss. Taste again, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Plate, and add a sprinkling of the remaining Parmesan cheese to each serving as garnish. Serve immediately.
- You can prepare the artichokes ahead of time and store them in a solution of water and 10% vinegar or lemon juice. To do that, perform Step 1 of the Procedure, then Step 3, adding the thinly sliced artichoke pieces to the water/acid solution. They’ll store fine for a few hours in the refrigerator; dry them well before preparing the salad.
- I don’t see any advantage to preparing the mushrooms ahead of time, so I always prepare them when I’m making the salad.
- You can chop the parsley (assuming it’s clean — I always wash mine right after it comes home from the supermarket; it takes just a minute) and grate the Parmesan (this takes a minute, too) when you need it; or right after Step 1 if you want to prepare it slightly ahead of time.
- The original recipe calls for the Parmesan to be shaved and added as garnish at the end. I prefer to have it grated and both tossed with the dressing (Step 5) and added as garnish (Step 6), but you might want to try this variation.
- You might also want to dribble on a few drops of extra virgin olive oil as extra garnish right before serving.
- If you’re using baby artichokes instead of mature ones, figure on two per person. Some “baby” ones are actually just small mature artichokes, and have a bit of choke — so just remove the choke if that’s the case. To prepare the baby artichokes, trim the stem and cut off the top half of the leaves. Remove the tough outer leaves. When you get to the tender leaves, cut the artichoke in half through the poles (lengthwise). If you see any choke, remove it at this time. Then slice (shave) thinly. Oh, and don’t forget to liberally rub all cut surfaces with lemon halves throughout preparation to prevent discoloration.
- When you’re buying artichokes, make sure they’re fresh. Fresh ones are not discolored, and the leaves grip the body of the artichoke tightly.
- For this recipe, we’re discarding most of the artichoke leaves. When artichokes are cooked, they have some edible flesh at the base of each leaf (you scrape it off with your teeth). If you wish, you can save the artichoke leaves from this recipe, steam them, and serve them separately.
- BTW, the stem core of the artichoke is edible — it’s an extension of the heart. You do need to trim off the tough skin, however. I find this easiest to do with a vegetable peeler. Usually, the artichokes you buy have stems of only an inch or so, so it’s barely worth the bother — but if the stem is longer, you definitely want to use it.
Fascinating Artichoke Facts
The artichoke is a species of thistle, as noted up top, and wild one are called cardoons. They’re actually the bud of a plant that flowers. We eat them well before they’re ready to bloom (once they flower, they’re inedible). Artichoke plants are large — up to 6 feet tall or so — and each plant puts out multiple buds.
Artichokes need a moderate climate to thrive. So it’s not surprising that they were first cultivated on lands bordering the Mediterranean, with Italy, Egypt, and Spain being the top producers. Today they’re grown in many spots around the world — Peru, the US, and Chile all grow major crops.
In the US, the vast majority of artichokes are grown in California (parts of which have a Mediterranean climate). Most of that production is in Monterrey County, centering around the town of Castroville — which bills itself as the “Artichoke Center of the World” and produces 75% of the US supply. Artichokes were first planted there in 1924. Today, Castroville proudly displays the world’s largest artificial artichoke.
Castroville is known for its annual Artichoke Festival which takes place every spring (May 18th and 19th this year). Mrs. Kitchen Riffs and I have never attended, but hope to one of these days. The festival features a parade, a classic car show, three-dimensional fruit and vegetable artwork, live music, wine and chef demos, and of course lots of artichoke dishes. Since 1948, they’ve crowned an Artichoke Queen, and since 1974 an Artichoke King. The first Artichoke Queen was a young woman called Norma Jeane — who later changed her name to Marilyn Monroe.
All these artichoke facts are fun. But the most important fact about artichokes is this: They’re so good to eat! We’ve posted about other artichoke dishes on Kitchen Riffs: Artichoke Dip with Cheddar Cheese and Artichoke Scoops with Scallops (the latter recipe makes a killer dish, BTW, and can be either a first course or a main).
But those dishes, like virtually all artichoke recipes, require cooked artichokes. This salad is one of the few that uses artichokes raw. The dish does require some prep work, but the payoff is worth it. I’m bowled over by the flavor of this salad. All choked up, you might say.
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