With artichoke season here and the delicious if at times intimidating vegetable widely available, I wanted to share a recipe for stuffed artichokes I picked up a few weeks ago from one of the incredibly knowledgeable staff members at the Bi-Rite grocery store on Divisadero Street in San Francisco. He not only shared his Mom’s heritage family recipe, but also several prepping and general handling tips, which I’ve been surprised to learn are sorely needed even by some of the more crafty cooks and bakers I know. And I’d include myself in the crowd who could learn a thing or two about this tricky veggie from a born and bred Central Californian who works at a speciality grocery store.
The first thing to know is how to trim the leaves. When you first pick up a ‘choke, you’ll notice that each of the leaves comes to a sharp point (a thorn really) and because of their thick and layered nature seem tough to trim. But it’s actually really easy – just use kitchen scissors and it takes about :15 seconds to work all the leaves.
Since in this case we’re making stuffed artichokes, you can trim the leaves way back – you can only eat the bottom part anyway (more on that later). Once you’ve removed all the thorns, continue by pulling out the center leaves, which are much less dense – they will pull out very easily. Trim the outer leaves back even more if necessary to get down to the very center, which you’ll see is covered with short, thistley type fibers.
Once you’ve trimmed the leaves, use the scissors to cut off the stem, so that the bottom of the artichoke is flat. The stem will also cut remarkably easily. Save the stems as they’ll be peeled/trimmed some more and then used in the stuffing.
Next, use an ice cream scooper to removed the fibers, which sit just above the ‘heart’ of the artichoke. The brown part you see in the photo below is the artichoke heart. It turns brown almost instantly once the fibers are removed, nothing to worry about.
Now, 2-3 minutes later, you’re ready to stuff and cook the artichokes! It’s really fun to serve these since they are unlike any other food likely to be in the average repertoire. They are pretty to look at and delicious to eat. And you now know that they’re really easy to prep.
The recipe below is more of an art than a science – if you don’t like a strong garlic presence for example, simply use less that what’s listed here.
Hands-On Time: 15-20 minutes
Special Equipment: Lemon Zester or Microplane, Heavy-Bottomed Pot or Dutch Oven
- 3-4 Large Artichokes, with stems
- 3-4 Meyer Lemons
- 2 Cups Breadcrumbs
- Make them at home: whirr thinly sliced whole-wheat toast in the blender
- 6 Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
- Heaping Handful Parsley, chopped
- Heaping Handful Mint, chopped
- Parmesan Cheese (in block form)
- Olive Oil
- 2 Cups White Wine, preferably Chardonnay
- Zest two of the lemons, place zest in mixing bowl.
- Juice all of the lemons into a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven.
- Add about 1/8″ of water to the lemon juice.
- Next, prep the artichokes
- Cut off the stems so that the artichoke can sit upright when placed on counter. Set stems aside.
- Using kitchen shears, snip the tops of the leaves off to remove the sharp ends, cutting off the top 1/4 -1/3 of each leaf.
- Pull out the center leaves by the handful. They will get smaller as you go.
- Use the ice-cream scooper to remove the fibers above the artichoke heart
- Place the cored artichoke in the lemon-water and swish around to coat.
- Peel and then finely dice the reserved artichoke stems, add to mixing bowl.
- Add in the chopped parsley, mint, garlic and breadcrumbs to the bowl. Grate in Parmesan cheese to taste.
- Slowly drizzle in olive oil and toss to throughly incorporate. Continue until mixture holds together loosely but no more.
- Remove artichokes from water and place the breadcrumb mixture in the centers.
- Add the wine to the lemon-water and return the stuffed artichokes to the pot.
- Bring liquid to a fast boil, then cover and simmer for 15-30 minutes. Outer leaves will remove with little resistance when ready. Let cool 5-10 minutes
- Scoop stuffing with leaves, removing the bottom portion of each leaf by biting down / scraping with your teeth.
- Once all the leaves are removed, remember that the base (the heart) of the artichoke is the best part. Eat with a knife and fork, or just pick it up and take a bite!