Thursday, September 3, 2009


When you watch the chefs trimming artichokes before cooking, it seems that they are throwing most of it away. It is true that much of the artichoke is inedible, but the ruthless trimming is also throwing away bits of edible material. that would not do for a frugal society. Also, my mother threw away a large chunk of usable artichoke. She chopped off the stem below the flower. I know this is meant to be a family site, but I have no intention of advising anyone to throw away good food no matter what Mom did.

Four large artichokes. They should squeak when you squeeze them. they should feel heavy for their size, and not have dry or discolored leaves.

Bread crumbs... fresh, crushed dried bread or grated stale bread.

Grated cheese. Finely grated Parmesan, Romano(Pecorino Romano) the hard grating cheese with peppercorns in it or if available Ricotta Salata.(Dried salted Ricotta that becomes hard like other grating cheeses)

One beaten egg

Fresh or dried Parsley(flat leaf is best)

One recipe of meatless tomato sauce of your choice, home made chicken broth or water with onion, salt and pepper, chopped vegetables, garlic, tomato, mint(catmint or oregano), olive oil and a bay leaf.(boiled till all the vegetable matter has broken down) The resulting sauce should be quite thin.
How about steaming Mussels or mixed shellfish and reserving the liquid to steam the artichokes.

Cut the stem from the Atrichoke. Peel it and cut off the dried cut end. Set aside. Trim off the tiny leaves at the bottom of the artichoke and the loosest of the big leaves. Cut off the tip of the artichoke perhaps an inch from the top. You have two choices facing you now. 1. Hollow out the center of the artichoke by spreading the top open and digging down to the bottom of the center and dig out the purple finely divided blossom inside.(use a teaspoon, melon baller or a grapefruit spoon) {You can also cut it in half vertically and remove this(This leaves less of the artichoke to stuff as you now have to lay it down to cook it.)}
2. Leave it whole and have less or no space in the center to stuff and the choke remains for the eater to remove as they eat.

Mix two parts bread crumbs and one part cheese. Add an egg and an eggshell of water and parsley. Let it stand for a few minutes till the water is absorbed. You may also stuff it into the artichoke dry and rely on the sauce to moisten it.

Place a bit of stuffing into the middle of the artichoke by prying it apart with your fingers. Spread the artichoke as much as possible and rub against the grain of the artichoke to push a small amount of the crumb mixture inside most of the leaves. If you are not getting enough in, spread each leaf outward and stuff individually.

Lower the whole artichokes and the stems into the broth or sauce standing upright, and simmer covered till the artichoke is tender....use a skewer to pierce the artichoke to see if it yeilds. The artichoke halves should be done in a broad bottomed pan or frying pan. this liquid need not cover the artichoke. Much of the cooking process is from the rising steam. They could also just be steamed over a flavored liquid.

Serve alone on a plate drizzled with olive oil. Tear the leaves off one by one and eat by scraping the stuffing and the tender flesh from the bottom inside third of the leaf with your teeth. This is a slow but enjoyable process. When you reach the tender inside leaves, they may be eaten whole. Make sure you do not eat the purple inside flower, but once that is removed, the heart and virtually the entire artichoke is edible once the tough outer leaves are removed.

Some people stuff the artichoke with the dry stuffing and drizzle beaten egg or egg white over the stuffing to consoloidate it. I cannot envision this process, yet it is not uncommon.

I have also seen these served with grilled or steamed shrimp and drizzled with garlic infused butter. Just boil the oil or butter at a low temperature with minced garlic till the garlic is tender. Salt and pepper will help as well.

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