A Spring Flavored Taste of Italy

In honor of my mom and her friend Andrea’s travels through Italy this week, I decided to make one of my favorite Italian dishes, Baked Stuffed Artichokes. Italians love their artichokes prepped every way and they are a creative alternative to everyone’s favorite Italian spaghetti and meatballs! A Mediterranean staple, they are said to have been cultivated in Naples in the 9th century. Deriving their name from the northern Italian words “articiocco” or “articoclos” (meaning “pine cone”), this member of the sunflower family celebrates its peak seasons in spring and fall. Although almost 100% of the United States’ crop comes from California, countries like Italy, Spain, and France are worldwide distributors.

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Globe Artichokes

It seems as though every time I make this dish I change it up a bit, depending on what I have in the house, and they still always come out delicious! It’s a great way to bring the spring indoors when it’s too cold for the grill but you still want a fresh, healthy, and flavorful meal. Here’s the recipe I decided on tonight. This is one of the more time consuming ones I have but just as easy as many of my others!

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Baked Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients:

4 Artichokes

6 cloves of garlic

3-4 lemons (I only had 2 in the house, so 2’s what I used!), Zest one of the lemons and save for the filling

1/2 chopped onion

3-4 small sausages (this was a new addition for me, make it a vegetarian dish by simply leaving these out and using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock)

1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs (more or less, that’s my guess-timate)

1 cup Parmesan (freshly grated or from the container, whatever, as long as it Locatelli!)

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

1 cup white wine

Fresh herbs (I like basil and parsley but rosemary, thyme, or oregano would all work well with the citrusy lemon notes)

1 dried bay leaf

2 eggs

EVOO

Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Start by prepping your artichokes. Trim the stem to make a flat bottom, trim the top leaves to make a flat top and snip the sharp tips off the leaves surrounding with kitchen shears. Rub the cuts with half of a lemon.

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Next, prep the braising liquid by heating a pot over medium high heat. Drizzle with EVOO. Toss in 4 whole garlic cloves, 3 cups of chicken stock, the white wine, water, lemons (half them first and squeeze the juice into the pot, then toss in the rines), bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the artichokes cut side down and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Remove the artichokes from the liquid, drain and let cool cut side down on a plate. Reserve 1-2 cups of braising liquid.

Once the artichokes are cooled remove the choke, the furry part under the center leaves. Make sure to get it all, they call it a “choke” for a reason!

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To make the stuffing, crumble sausage into a pan with EVOO over medium-high heat and cook through. Add the onion and remaining 2 cloves of garlic (chopped) mid-way through cooking. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool (Note: See? All this cooling is the time sensitive part. Feel free to make ahead then construct right before baking. If  you’re making a vegetarian version, skip the sausage all together. Maybe substitute with mushrooms or eggplant? Anything that will stand up to rest of the filling ingredients.)

Combine remaining ingredients; Parmesan, bread crumbs, chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest, egg, and 1 cup of chicken stock. Add in the sausage mixture. I drizzle with extra EVOO to keep the stuffing moist. Now, you’re (finally!) ready to stuff! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously stuff the centers of the artichokes and in between the outer leaves. Place completed artichokes snugly into a baking dish. Drizzle tops with EVOO and add reserved cooking liquid to the bottom of the pan. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Uncover and broil until golden brown and crisp on top. Sometimes I add a little extra Parmesan, you know, for good measure 🙂 Enjoy!

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Serve these delicious treats with a crisp white wine and imagine you’re surrounded by the sprawling vineyards of the Italian coastline! As an interesting fact for all you other expecting mommies out there, in Ancient Greece, the artichoke was attributed to securing the birth of a boy! So, in honor of my mom, her fabulous friend, and (possible) grandson, Buon appetito!

Eat Well,

Stephanie a.k.a. The Foodetarian

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