The Heart of the Matter

Originally stemming from the Mediterranean and Southern Europe the artichoke is one of the worlds oldest harvested plants.  An intriguing green globe from the thistle family, artichokes can be eaten whole, pickled, deep-fried, stuffed,  steamed, baked, as a tea and even a liquor!  As a young child I remember my mom serving whole steamed artichokes for dinner with a garlic butter dipping sauce; it was always a special meal.  The  globe artichoke is eaten leaf my leaf, scraping away the meat with your teeth and for most the joy is when you reach the  tender heart.

Nutritionally artichokes strengthen the liver, aid digestion, relieve stress, protect against toxins and even cure hangovers!  They are an excellent source of fiber, manganese and magnesium.   Peak harvest is in the spring and the fall; major producers include Italy, Spain, and Egypt.  Castroville, California proclaims themselves “The Artichoke Center of the World”, and is the largest producer of the ‘choke stateside hosting an artichoke festival each year!

When I prepare artichokes I typically steam them and serve with a few dipping sauces. Preferably a garlic butter and an aioli.  They make an attractive presentation and are exciting to eat!  I have yet to try artichoke tea which you can find in herb and natural food stores.  I also would love to try Cynar an Italian bitter apèritif liquor.  I’ve heard that you can substitute Cynar for Campari in my favorite cocktail the “Negroni”

courtesy instituteforalcoholicexperimentation.com
courtesy foodismynish.com

Cynar Negroni

1 oz gin

1 oz cynar

1 oz sweet vermouth

garnish with a twist of orange

Well, now that the cocktails are covered let’s get to dinner!  Here is a lovely recipe for stuffed artichokes from epicurious.com .  This is how they turn out:

photo by michelle.
Ingredients:
For stuffing artichokes

  • 2 cups fine fresh bread crumbs from an Italian loaf (4 oz)   ( I always use Panko Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 oz)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced sweet soppressata (dried Italian sausage; 1 1/4 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 medium artichokes (8 to 9 oz each)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 thin slices provolone cheese

For cooking artichokes

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Special equipment: a melon-ball cutter; a 6- to 8-quart pressure cooker or a wide 4- to 6-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid
preparation

Make stuffing:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread bread crumbs in a shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until pale golden, about 10 minutes. Cool crumbs completely, then toss with parmesan, garlic, parsley, soppressata, zest if using, salt, and pepper. Drizzle oil over crumbs and toss to coat evenly.

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 1/2 inch off all remaining leaf tips with kitchen shears. Rub cut leaves with a lemon half.

Separate leaves slightly with your thumbs and pull out purple leaves from center and enough yellow leaves to expose fuzzy choke. Scoop out choke with melon-ball cutter, then squeeze some lemon juice into cavity.

Trim remaining artichokes in same manner.

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 1/2 teaspoon stuffing inside each leaf. Top each artichoke with a slice of provolone.

Cook artichokes:
Put water, wine, oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in pressure cooker (without insert) or pot and arrange stuffed artichokes in liquid in 1 layer.

(I alway use a regular ol’ pot instead of a pressure cooker.)

Seal pressure cooker with lid and cook at high pressure, according to manufacturer’s instructions, 10 minutes. Put pressure cooker in sink (do not remove lid) and run cold water over lid until pressure goes down completely.

If using a regular pot, simmer artichokes, covered, until leaves are tender, about 50 minutes.

Transfer artichokes with tongs to 4 soup plates and spoon cooking liquid around them.

FACT: Artichokes make everything taste better.
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One thought on “The Heart of the Matter

  1. Mmmm, that looks good Michelle! The first time I ever had artichokes was when a Californian friend made them for me – loved them! Not only do they taste good, but they are both nourishing and tonifying to the liver and gallbladder and have been used medicinally in every place they grow :)) Love your posts!

    Like

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