Recipe: Fried Artichoke Hearts with Oregano Tahini Sauce

Fried Artichoke Hearts with Oregano Tahini Sauce | Photo by Maria Zizka
Fried Artichoke Hearts with Oregano Tahini Sauce | Photo by Maria Zizka

Artichokes are one of the vegetables I cannot resist buying at the market. I know their thorns should give me pause, but the truth is they just tempt me further. Looking at an artichoke, you know there's got to be something good hiding beneath those thick, waxy leaves. Indeed there is. The heart of an artichoke is tender and buttery. When fried and dipped in oregano tahini sauce, it makes for an indulgent, satisfying appetizer.

Fried Artichoke Hearts with Oregano Tahini Sauce
Serves 4 - 6 as an appetizer

12 baby artichokes
5 - 6 small cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more for the water bath
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup tahini
Oil for frying, about 4 cups
Flour, for dredging
Flaky salt, for sprinkling

To clean the artichokes, first fill a large bowl with cool water and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, which will prevent the cut edges of the artichokes from turning brown. Using scissors, snip off any large thorns. Peel back the tough, outer dark-green leaves until you reach soft, yellow interior leaves. Do not be timid about this step because those outer leaves are fibrous and bitter--you won't want to eat them. Slice away the top half of each artichoke, and trim any dark green parts. Get rid of anything that is dark green. Slice each artichoke lengthwise into halves or quarters, and scoop out the fuzzy choke, if there is one. Dunk the cleaned artichokes into the acidulated water.

Steam the artichoke hearts until they are tender.

Meanwhile, make the oregano tahini sauce by pounding the garlic, salt, and oregano leaves in a mortar. Once the garlic is smashed to a smooth paste, stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, and tahini. Thin the sauce with a tablespoon or two of water, adding a little at a time, until the sauce is the consistency of honey. Taste for seasoning.

In a deep skillet or wide pot, heat at least ½ inch of frying oil to 375°F. Dredge the steamed artichoke hearts in flour, shake off the excess, and carefully drop them into the hot oil. Fry, flipping occasionally, until the artichokes are dark golden brown, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper bag, and let cool slightly.

Sprinkle the fried artichoke hearts with a generous amount of flaky salt, and serve alongside the oregano tahini sauce for dipping.


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