Until now, anyone searching A Veggie Venture for artichoke recipes might well come away disappointed. In three years, I've collected only four recipes -- not one calling for fresh artichokes. Nil. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
I just didn't 'get' artichokes. They were eeeh, okay, hardly worth the fuss. "Here, just eat the heart," I heard time after time. Eh.
I did buy artichokes, half-writing posts in my head right there in the produce department. Two years in a row, their spiked leaves dried to nothing in the fridge. This year, they languished a good week before I forced myself to do something -- anything -- with them. Suddenly, one warmish spring evening, I was inspired to pull out the weapons that anyone veggie averse should have at hand, bacon and cheese.
And oh glory, I get it, I finally get it. And yes, artichokes are a tad fussy (especially stuffed) but way easier to trim and prep than all those prickly leaves and complicated diagrams lead you to expect. Call me glad it's early in artichoke season: you see, I've got some catching up to do.
SO ONCE THEY'RE STUFFED AND BAKED, HOW DO YOU EAT ARTICHOKES? With your fingers! I served these in big bowls, ones large enough for leftover leaves. Starting from the outside, pull off a leaf and scrape the fleshy part at the leaf's bottom between your teeth, discard the rest. After all the leaves are gone, you'll find the artichoke heart at the bottom, a cylinder of meaty flesh. Depending on the size of the artichoke, the heart will be just a couple of bites big but it's worth saving for last and savoring. If someone offers their heart, say yes!
Time to table: 90 minutes
Serves as many as needed
STUFFING, per artichoke
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped small
1/2 ounce pancetta, chopped (optional, not used in the inspiring recipe)
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (the inspiring recipe called for fresh)
1/4 teaspoon dried ground fennel
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tablespoon capers (I was out, didn't use these, think the saltiness would be excellent)
Salt & pepper
White wine (the inspiring recipe uses this too, I used only broth)
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil til shimmery. Add the onion, pancetta and garlic and cook til just soft. Stir in the thyme, fennel and bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, til bread crumbs begin to brown. Stir in Parmesan and capers. Season to taste.
While cooking the filling, prep the artichokes. Rinse the artichoke. Pull off the outer layer of leaves. Slice off the stem (these need to be able to sit flat.) Slice off the artichoke's tip, about 1 inch deep. With scissors, snip off the tips of the outer leaves, they're sharp!) Rub the cut edges with lemon (this is to prevent browning.) With your fingers, reach into the artichoke's center, spreading the leaves. Pull out the interior center leaves to expose the prickly choke. With a serrated grapefruit spoon or melon baller, scoop out the choke and discard. If prepping ahead, drop artichokes into lemon water before proceeding. (See Simply Recipes for a great photo tutorial on prepping artichokes. The one difference is that for this recipe, we're going to remove the choke before cooking.)
Filling the artichokes: With a small spoon, stuff a tablespoon of filling into the center. Then, working from the outside in, put a half teaspoon of filling between each layer of leaves. This is a little fussy but not hard. I actually started at the second layer of leaves, so none of the filling would fall out between the outside leaves.
Place the artichokes upright in a baking dish. Pour the broth and/or wine into the bottom, about an inch or so high. Cover with foil and bake for an hour. Enjoy!!
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