There’s something to be said for using produce that is in-season. It’s typically freshest and tastes the best. In the spring I’m more than happy to consume my fair share of strawberries and asparagus, but right now we are in an in-season produce no-man’s land. That being said, I am more than happy to take full advantage of the produce aisles of the grocery store that are well-stocked with pretty much everything. Hey, I did my time where I literally only ate the fruit that grew in the garden and, though that fruit tasted really good, it wasn’t that great. Getting whatever you want whenever you want it isn’t all bad.
Do I sound like an American or what?
Artichokes, however, are in season right now. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t eat enough artichokes, and I have absolutely no idea why. They are an excellent, flavorful substitute for meat and you can buy them frozen, canned or fresh. Maybe I’m scared away by the massive size of fresh artichokes, or the manual labor that goes into eating them. Maybe it’s the prickly leaves that stick my fingers, or the fact that I never get to Trader Joe’s often enough to buy the frozen ones.
But they’re so much fun to eat, and the fact that you have to put some effort into eating them only makes you enjoy them even more. Yep, I will have to start cooking more with artichokes. Fresh ones, preferably.
Nate and I made these together, and it was one of our better joint cooking efforts. I cleaned out the artichokes while he made the stuffing, and then I pried the artichokes open and separated the leaves while he filled them. I’ve discovered that if you’re going to cook with someone in the kitchen, it’s good to have distinct tasks that come together into something cohesive, like a sauce or stuffing. That way you get some ownership over your part and no one is stuck doing all the chopping for everything. Too much slicing and dicing (particularly if it’s raw meat which is, let’s face it, gross) leads to resentment and things like “All you ever let me do is chop stuff up!”
Stuffed artichokes are a meal in themselves. The filling sinks to the bottom of the leaves, so each leaf is like a spoonful of filling and artichoke meat. It’s awesome. There’s really no other way to describe it.
(Adapted from Gourmet, November 2007)
You can play around with the meats and cheeses in the filling. The original recipe called for sopresseta, but if you have salami or some other spicy sausage, that would work too. We used gouda rather than provolone, but any flavorful, but mild, cheese that melts well would work (I think gruyere would be nice as well). Heck, you could even dice up some ham and use swiss cheese!
- 2 cups fine fresh bread crumbs from an Italian loaf (1/4 pound)
- 3/4 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1.5 ounces)
- 1.5 tablespoons finely chopped garlic (3 cloves)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup minced Italian sausage
- 1/2 cup finely chopped gouda cheese (2 oz)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 medium artichokes (8 to 9 ounces each)
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1/2 cup water, divided
- 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, divided
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Spread bread crumbs in a shallow baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once or twice, until pale golden, about 10 minutes. Cool completely, then toss with parmesan, garlic, parsley, soppressata, provolone, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Drizzle oil (1/4 cup) over crumbs and toss to coat.
Trim and stuff artichokes:
Cut off artichoke stems and discard. Cut off top 1/2 inch of 1 artichoke with a serrated knife, then cut about inch off all remaining leaf tips with kitchen shears. Rub cut leaves with a lemon half.
Separate leaves slightly with your thumbs, then pull out purple leaves from center and enough yellow ones to expose fuzzy choke. Scoop out choke with a melon-ball cutter or small spoon, then squeeze some juice from other lemon half into cavity. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons stuffing into cavity of each artichoke and, Starting with bottom leaves and spreading leaves open as much as possible without breaking, spoon a rounded teaspoon stuffing between each leaf.
Put water, broth, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in pot and arrange the stuffed artichokes in liquid in 1 layer.
Simmer artichokes, covered, until leaves are tender, about 50 minutes. Transfer cooked artichokes, along with any liquid, to a shallow bowl and keep warm, loosely covered with foil.
Repeat procedure to cook remaining stuffed artichokes. Transfer artichokes with tongs to shallow soup bowls and spoon cooking liquid around them.