The art involved in artichoke preparation begins with the selection of the appropriate globes for purchase. It is always best to look for organic produce, choosing the heaviest specimens with closed petals. You may find them in a variety of colors ranging from bright green to purplish hues depending on the variety grown.
The artichoke is actually a species of thistle cultivated as a food. Picked before the purple flower buds bloom, the edible vegetable is considered a world-wide delicacy and is prepared in countless variations. Although available year round, the best time to purchase in the USA is between March and May as it is an early spring crop.
Since this recipe is for stuffed artichokes, choose medium size samples with uniform color and leaves that are not dried out. Abundant protein, vitamin C and magnesium are found in this fresh vegetable as well as superior medicinal qualities. Many believe that the artichoke’s main properties aid digestion, liver and gall bladder function, and reduce cholesterol levels. Its high antioxidant capacity puts it at the top of the chart for a healing herbal tea with a slightly bitter taste but huge internal benefits.
Many companies harvest the baby variety either canning in water or putting them into olive oil for preservation. These can be added to salads and sautéed with onions and garlic to be added to pasta dishes and sauces. If purchased in water, rinse well and drain before using. Some varieties are grown just for their “hearts”thereby mechanically removing the inedible chokes or hairy fibers and producing a more refined product but losing much of the important dietary treasures that the fresh samples provide. Definitely worth the effort, a stuffed artichoke has a spectacular flavor that many will agree are unparalleled as a culinary treat.
Stuffed Baked Artichokes
To prepare 2 medium-large artichokes, cut about an inch off the entire top of each globe and discard. Cut the woody stem to leave about 2 inches intact. Trim each leaf to cut off the thorny edge with a kitchen shears. Cut the vegetable in half exposing the hairy inedible choke in the middle. With a small sharp knife carefully cut and scoop out to remove all of the yellowish “hairs”exposing the heart. Wash in cold water spreading the leaves slightly to allow this irrigation to clean it well. Place in a large stainless steel pot with a steamer basket and fill with water up to the basket bottom. Add some fresh lemon juice and steam the globes for at least 30 minutes uncovered until the outer leaves are easily pulled off. The lemon juice will keep them from browning. Make sure you add some more water if needed to avoid scalding the pot. Remove from the steamer. Lightly spray some olive oil in a glass casserole and place the artichokes cut side up.
Preheat the oven to 350. In a frying pan, combine the following ingredients:
1/4 cup soy margarine
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1 tbsp. dried parsley
Sauté for a few minutes then add:
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated vegan parmesan cheese
Stir until blended adding a little water if needed to make a soft mixture. Place the stuffing generously into the heart canal and leaves and bake for 25-30 minutes, covered with foil. Uncover for the last 5 minutes for a crispier top.
Before serving make a dip of 1/4 cup melted margarine, 2 teas. chopped garlic and 1 teas. dried parsley. Divide into 2 portions for individual dipping.
To enjoy your artichoke, pull off each leaf one at a time and dip the white fleshy end in the sauce. Gripping the other end, place in mouth dip side down and pull through your bottom teeth to remove the soft delicious portion of the petal. Discard the rest. When you get to the heart, cut, dip and enjoy the hidden treasure.
From the selection, to the preparation, to the art of eating an artichoke, you will find flavor and delight. Perhaps this recipe is for the more adventurous cook, but once you dive in, you will be a seasoned fan!