Baby Artichoke Salad
16 baby artichokes
4 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
2 bunches arugula, well washed
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Peel the outer leaves from the artichokes until you reach the part where the leaves are mostly a creamy yellow. Cut the top inch off the artichoke and trim away the stem so that you are left with a golf-ball-size artichoke heart. If you aren't going to eat the salad right away, put the artichokes into a bowl of water with 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. To prevent the artichokes from turning black, lay a paper towel on top of the water to keep air from getting to them. Refrigerate.
When you are ready to prepare the salad, drain the artichokes and slice them lengthwise as thin as possible. (If you have an electric slicer, that's ideal.) Place the artichokes in a bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of the lemon juice, the olive oil, salt and pepper, and oregano. Toss.
Divide the arugula among 4 plates. Top each plate with some artichoke mixture. Shave slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano over each salad and serve.
Artichokes are very reactive. They turn your hands black and turn black themselves if exposed to air too long. When I prepare artichokes, I always wear surgical gloves, a trick that's useful in handling any food that might stain your skin, like beets, or leave it smelling unholy, like Gorgonzola or garlic. When you work with artichokes, don't touch other foods, otherwise the artichokes will turn bitter. At the end, wash your hands with lemon juice.
Excerpted from DIARY OF A TUSCAN CHEF by Cesare Casella Copyright© 1998 by Cesare Casella & Eileen Daspin. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.