BAKED STUFFED ARTICHOKES

Artichokes stuffed till bursting with an aromatic Kalamata olive, garlic, pine nut and lemon bread stuffing, then baked till steaming hot!

Makes 2

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 whole, fresh artichokes (I prefer the big round ones with tightly closed petals around the crown)

1/2 lemon

If your artichokes have stems, slice off 1/8 inch from bottom of stem and discard. Slice stems flush with artichoke bottoms and reserve. Peel off and discard large, outer, blemished petals, then slice off 1/2-1 inch from top of artichokes. Using kitchen shears, snip off 1/4-1/2 inch from tip of each petal.

Bring large pot of water to a roaring boil. Put artichokes, stems and 1/2 lemon into water. Do not salt water. Cover, reduce heat to a slow boil and cook till a petal separates easily from the crown. Depending upon the artichoke this could take anywhere between 20-40 minutes. Remove artichokes and stems from water and drain artichokes upside down on a wire rack.

Stuffing:

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 c. finely diced sweet onion

salt

3 lg. garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

4-5 Kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped

juice of 1 lemon

2 T. pine nuts

2 c. fresh breadcrumbs made from French or Italian bread

salt to taste

additional extra virgin olive oil

1 T. water

In medium skillet, over low heat, melt olive oil. Add onion, a little salt and saute till soft.

Add garlic and cook till softened.

Add chopped olive, juice of lemon and pine nuts. Stir.

Add breadcrumbs all at once, stirring quickly to coat evenly with oil. Saute about 1 minute, being sure to moisten all crumbs. Do not add any water, the breadcrumbs will moisten with the oil and lemon juice. Salt if needed. Remove from heat.

Place artichokes upright in a baking dish. Add stems to the bottom of the dish if you have them.

Gently pull petals away from the crown as you spoon stuffing between most petals.

Add 1 tablespoon water and 1 T. olive oil to bottom of dish. Then, drizzle a little olive oil over each artichoke.

Cover tightly with 2 pieces of aluminum foil, each going in opposite directions, wrapping around entire dish. This prevents steam from escaping.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven. Lift artichokes carefully from the dish, along with the stems, to serving bowls and serve immediately.

Notes: Stuff artichokes just before baking them. Stuffing that sets too long in the artichokes will absorb moisture from the petals. If you wish, boil artichokes and make stuffing ahead of time, by 1-3 days, but store them separately till you’re ready to stuff and bake.

If desired, serve each artichoke with a side of melted margarine and fresh garlic to dip the petals in.

An easy way to make fresh breadcrumbs: Freeze 3 large slices of French bread, in plastic food bag or foil, till solid. When ready to use, take from freezer and while still frozen grate over large holes of a hand-held grater. The frozen crumbs will thaw almost instantly and you’ll have perfect fresh crumbs.

How to eat an artichoke: Peel petals one at a time from crown. Then, while holding tip between forefinger and thumb, draw petal through clenched teeth, while scraping the tender, inner side over bottom front teeth. Some people do it over their front teeth, but you get a stronger pull when using the bottom teeth. Then discard petal and take another. You may also split the petal in two from tip to end, and follow the same method.

The petals become more tender as you approach the center, yet at the very center they become bitter and unsuitable to eat. Lift these tiny inner petals all at once from the bottom, exposing a circle of hair-like fibers running perpendicular to the rim. Cut under these with a knife; lift out and discard. The artichoke bottom remains. Trim outer edges, cut into pieces and eat.

Now, peel the stems with a sharp knife and eat those. Although a bit more fibrous, the stem is tender and as flavorful as the bottom – an added treat that most cooks discard.

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