VEG of the month :: artichokes

VEG_of_the_month_NOLAchef_artichokes_alcauciles_rellenos_stuffed_Italian
Artichokes are a tasty beautiful thing-  aesthetically and nutritionally.

Many are surprised to hear that they’re loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and potassium which aids in reducing cholesterol, helps with digestion, and strengthens liver & gall bladder function.  So eat with confidence!

Artichokes can turn brown once cut open due to chlorophyll oxidation so immediately rub the cut areas with lemon or throw them in water with lemon or vinegar.

Their thick stems are edible but you must first remove or peel the outer layers until the lighter interior is exposed.  The cluster of yellowish leafs found in the center are inedible and should be removed.  This area is referred to as “the choke”.  The base, also known as the heart, is tender and delicious.

While studying at FCI and working at Hecho en Dumbo I had to peel hundreds of artichokes and I don’t think I’ll ever get them as gorgeous as the ones I saw in the markets of Peru.  (pictured below)

Peru_Artichokes_NOLAchef_stuffed
For me, artichokes are best enjoyed when overstuffed, the way my grandmother taught me.

In traditional recipes parmigiano reggiano, breadcrumbs, lemon, parsley and garlic are used.

I like to add my own twist by adding capers, olives (MY FAVE!), onion, basil, and sometimes mushrooms and marinated artichoke hearts!

So do what you want, mix it up, throw some of your personality into your artichokes!

Stuffed Artichokes::

  • artichoke, alcaucile
  • onion, cebolla
  • capers, alcaparras
  • olives, aceitunas
  • parsley, perejil
  • olive oil, aceite de oliva
  • lemon juice & zest, jugo y piel de límon
  • garlic, ajo
  • breadcrumbs, pan rallado
  • GOOD parmesan not that crap already grated and sold in a can/bag, BUENO parmesano
  • salt & pepper, sal y pimienta
  • water, lemon, & salt to steam the artichoke, agua, límon, y sal para vapor el alcaucile

All the measurements depend on your own palate hence why I don’t have any.  I like bold loud flavors but maybe you don’t.  Taste the filling as you’re making it and see what’s missing and what really pops and go from there.  Learn to taste your food as you cook.  Also, many of these ingredients are naturally salty (capers, onions, parmesan) therefor I found it unnecessary to add salt other than to the cooking liquid.

VEG_of_the_month_NOLAchef_artichokes_alcauciles_rellenos_stuffed_Italian

Mince the capers, olives, onion, parsley, & garlic or throw them into a food processor.  If you process them make sure to do the onions separately and to not pulse them too much, you don’t want to extract the natural liquid, you want a dry stuffing.

VEG_of_the_month_NOLAchef_artichokes_alcauciles_rellenos_stuffed_Italian

Transfer into a large mixing bowl and add the lemon zest & juice (not too much at first!), breadcrumbs, and cheese.

Mix well and add some black pepper and enough olive oil til you can grab some with your fingers and it forms together on it’s own.

VEG_of_the_month_NOLAchef_artichokes_alcauciles_rellenos_stuffed_Italian

Now, taste.  Do you taste the cheese?  The lemon?  Is it too salty?  If so, add more breadcrumbs.  Is it flat?  Then add a squeeze of lemon and a bit of cheese or a dash of salt.  Is it fresh, can you taste the parsley?  These are some of the standout flavors that you’re looking for.

Time to assemble.  First rinse the artichoke and cut off the stem so it can stand up on it’s own.  If you’re lucky enough to have some stem remove the majority of the outer layer (vegetable peeler works great) and cut up the flesh in the inside and throw it into your stuffing.  Remove the bottom layer of leaves (by pulling them away from you until they snap off) and take a cut lemon and rub it on the bottom and ares that were once not exposed.

Some may have to cut the tips of the pointier leaves (scissors work just fine) depending on the artichoke.  The younger the artichoke the softer and less prickly the leaves are.  Some prefer to cut a portion of the top off, I don’t find this necessary for stuffing, but hey it all depends on the artichoke.  Grab the artichoke from the bottom and lightly smash the top of the artichoke on the counter.  This will blossom the artichoke and make stuffing a lot easier.  With a pair of tongs or your hands remove the center leaves that tend to be light yellow and purple, part of the choke.  Discard.

Place the artichoke in a working bowl that will allow to collect any stuffing that falls out.  With a small spoon individually stuff each leaf pressing the stuffing down with the tip of the spoon.  Do this to every leaf as well as the center.

Once  the artichoke is stuffed place it in a secure pan or pot with about an inch of water, a dash of salt, and a piece of lemon.  Turn on the heat, put on the lid, and allow to steam until the leaves can be easily removed.  Keep an eye on the water level!  You may have to add more and you don’t want it to dry out and burn the pan as well as the bottom of the artichoke.  I mean after all that work, that would be a tragedy.

Artichokes can be stuffed in advance and placed in the refrigerator a day before using.  I like to wrap them in plastic wrap to hold in the moisture and not dry it out.  Many Southeners I know prefer to cook their artichokes in pressure cookers, something I’ve never done before.  Other’s like to steam or boil them first before stuffing.  This depends on personal preference as well as the artichoke.  Sometimes it takes an hour to steam and others only 20-30 minutes.  From my experience artichokes come in many forms- soft, prickly, tight, tender.  This will affect how long it cooks for.  So don’t go all crazy if your artichoke behaves different than what you “learned”.  Check out these crazy guys I saw in Peru…

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