When in Rome… fry an artichoke?

As I was brushing up on my Italian recently, I was reminded of one of the most delicious appetizers I’ve ever had. When in Rome, I had the famous “carciofi alla giudia”, literally, “jewish artichokes”. If you’ve never been to Rome, I bet you’ve never seen this:

Carciofi alla giudia

from cucina.ilbloggatore.com

They say no one but a Roman can cut an artichoke this way.

Originating with the ancient Jewish population in the Ghetto of Rome, carciofi alla giudia (car-CHO-fee alla JOO-dee-aa, for my non-Italian speaking readers) is an artichoke that has been fanned out and deep-fried, creating a crispy-on-the-edges, soft-on-the-inside texture. It’s like a fan of potato chips that are a little chewy in the very center. I’ve never been a big veggie person, but I LOVED this when I had dinner in the Ghetto. I wonder if you can get these anywhere in America? I want to try to make these. I bet James would be afraid to try them, but he usually trusts me. I can’t wait to see what happens!

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Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

The first time I made these, my family fell in love. My mom in particular LOVES these. I’ve made them for parties, but they’re wonderful as a side at dinner too. The inspiration for these came from something I found on the food network, but having made them so long I changed a few things along the way. The amounts are a rough estimate, so don’t worry if you have to change things.

Ingredients:

20-30 Cremini (baby bella) mushrooms

bag of pre-washed baby spinach

2-3 tbsp cream cheese

1 bag (2 cups) shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano

salt & pepper

1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

Rinse and dry mushrooms. Remove stems. Set mushroom caps aside.

Finely chop the spinach. If you’d like to use the food processor, there’s nothing stopping you. I like chopping spinach, though, and I think it gives it a nice texture.

In a medium bowl, combine spinach, mozzarella, parmesan, salt & pepper, and garlic powder. The mix in cream cheese. I like to use a fork to mash it in there. Be persistent, it might take a little muscle, but when you’re done you should have a soft, creamy mixture. You might need to add more cream cheese. In fact last time I made this, I used almost 4 oz. It just depends on what type of consistency you’re looking for.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Stuff each mushroom cap with some of the spinach mixture (I like it when they’re overflowing and you have to eat them with a fork and knife). Its ok if you crowd them a little to fit them on the sheet, since mushrooms shrink a little when cooked. Bake at 375°F for about 10-12 minutes. Really, it’s hard to over-cook a mushroom, and you want everything to be soft and melted.

CA’s Famous Veggie Pizza Recipe

As promised, here is the recipe to the veggie pizza everyone loves:

Ingredients

1 package pizza crust mix (I use Pillsbury hot roll mix)

1 tbsp olive oil (vegetable oil is fine too)

1 can pizza sauce (Don Peppino’s is the best)

2 cups (or more) shredded mozzarella

1 red pepper, cut into 1-2 inch strips

1/2 red onion,  cut into 1-2 inch strips

1 package sliced cremini mushrooms

1 small can sliced black olives

1 clove chopped garlic (optional)

Directions:

Make crust according to package directions. Working gently with your fingers, spread dough into pizza pan (I use a full cookie sheet). Using pastry brush, spread oil over dough. Next, using a spoon, spread sauce over dough, leaving room for crust (I use about 1/2 a can for a full cookie sheet pizza, less than 1/2 if the pizza is smaller). Sprinkle about 1 and 1/2 cups of the mozzarella on pizza and reserve the last 1/4 cup.

Spread all the toppings around on the pizza. If using garlic, make sure it’s TINY pieces in TINY amounts and spread FAR apart. Nobody wants a full mouth of garlic, trust me. Put remaining cheese on top of toppings.

Bake according to package directions, or 425F for 10-15 minutes.

Also, it’s ok if all the toppings look like they’re overcrowding the pizza. The mushrooms shrink significantly when cooked, so an overcrowded pizza looks normal after cooking. If you decide to include meat, pepperoni slices shrink as well.