Considering my Italian heritage, I admit that I may be partial to Italian cuisine. After all, I was raised with the fragrance of fresh basil perfuming the air and the music of thick rich tomato sauce simmering on the stove. When my grandparents came to America from “the old country,” they brought with them an appreciation of fresh ingredients and food prepared from scratch. Bread and pasta were always homemade. Vegetables were grown in the backyard garden. When I finally traveled to Italy myself, I witnessed firsthand how simply prepared fresh produce remains an important part of Italian cuisine. Maybe that’s another reason I love Italian cooking, since I never met a vegetable I didn’t like.
Take artichokes, for example. I enjoy them any way I can get them: steamed, stuffed, in a salad, in risotto, tossed with pasta – you name it. When I’m fortunate enough to find fresh baby artichokes, they are the star of the meal, usually served steamed and unadorned beyond a squeeze of fresh lemon.
When fresh artichokes are unavailable, I use frozen or canned in recipes, often pairing them with walnuts. However, only recently I’ve come up with a delicious way to combine these two complementary favorites into one amazing appetizer.
First, I make a thick batter with finely ground walnuts. Quartered artichoke hearts are then coated with the batter and pan-fried. Succulent and tender inside, with a crusty nutty outside and punctuated by bits of lemon zest, the result is heaven on a plate.
This recipe works well with cooked frozen artichoke hearts or canned or marinated artichoke hearts. They are best served hot as an appetizer accompanied by lemon wedges.
- 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, chickpea flour, or fine cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon very fine lemon zest, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup nondairy milk
- Neutral vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 1/2 cups cooked frozen or canned artichoke hearts, well drained and quartered
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- In a food processor, process the walnuts until finely ground.
- Add the flour, cornstarch, lemon zest, if using, salt, pepper, and nondairy milk. Process until smooth and well blended.
- Transfer to a shallow bowl. (The batter will be thick)
- Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Dip the artichoke hearts in the batter, turning to coat all over, then add them to the hot pan, working in batches if needed.
- Cook until nicely browned on both sides, turning once.
- Serve hot, with lemon wedges.