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I look forward to the spring and fall not just because of the beautiful colors, but because it is artichoke season. This is a vegetable that many people are not familiar with and don’t know how to prepare, maybe even find them a little daunting. Artichokes are prepared in many ways in Italy from raw artichoke salads, with pasta, risotto, marinated, fried, grilled and one of my favorites stuffed.
Italian markets are stacked with neat rows of artichokes and rows of people clambering around to buy them. They can be bought whole with long stems, which are by the way also eatable, or cleaned ready to fry or just the hearts sliced and tossed in a salad with shavings of parmesan cheese scattered over the top dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. However you prepare them they are a beautiful and delicious vegetable.
There isn’t a week that goes by during the season when we don’t have them at least twice. If I can get them more often, I’m likely to make them several times a week. The season is short, so I have to get my fill in as long as it lasts.
Try to buy them with the stems still attached if possible and make sure you check that the bottoms are not dried out. Don’t buy them if they are brown around the leaves. They should be clean, tightly packed, fresh and green.
Follow the recipe below and then sit down to a delicious and satisfying dinner of stuffed artichokes.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings
6 large globe artichokes
1 lemon cut in half
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 stick pepperoni, half chopped finely, the other half in thick slices
5 cups loosely packed white bread crumbs, chopped very fine
4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large egg
1/2 cup pine nuts
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Cut the pointed tops of the artichokes with a scissor and rub them entirely with lemon. This prevents the leaves from turning brown. Remove the smaller lower leaves, and cut the bottom stem so the artichokes are flat.
Combine the breadcrumbs, finely chopped pepperoni, garlic, grated cheese, parsley, pine nuts and salt and pepper together. Taste the mixture to make sure you have enough salt. Add the egg and some olive oil to the mixture and combine until it holds together in you hand when you squeeze it.
Stuff the artichokes between each leave. If you chose to just stuff the middle, you must clean out the leaves and hay in the middle of the choke and fill the cavity. In our family we prefer to stuff each leave.
Place them in a very large pan of water reaching up to just below the first set of leaves. Add the chunks of pepperoni.
They will take at least 45 minutes to 1 hour cooking time on medium heat. They are done when you can pull a leaf out of the coke easily. Be sure they are completely cooked, as the bottom of the leaves will be hard if undercooked.
Don’t forget to eat the heart, which is the best part.