The edible part of an artichoke is actually the bud of the plant before flowering and it is native to the Mediterranean area where it has been cultivated since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The part of the bud that we eat is the fleshy lower portion of the petals and the “heart” at the base of the bud. The choke, which we also discard is made the immature florets that are inedible and fibrous.
The artichoke is a variety of thistle and if it is left to flower these florets develop into a bright thistle like flower.
Artichokes are prepared in many different ways around the world. This recipe is a classic Italian way of preparing artichokes with a delicious bread stuffing made with parmesan, garlic, parsley and the edible and flavourful inner core of the stalks. They are then simmered in water that has been acidified with lemon to prevent the artichoke discolouring and when ready to eat, the stuffed artichoke is drizzled with dressing made with some of the cooking liquid with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil added to it to enhance the flavour of the artichoke and the moist bread stuffing.
Selecting the Artichokes:
The artichoke globes should be firm, tightly closed and give a squeak when squeezed. The stalk and leaves should also be firm and fresh. If the globe’s petals are open and not tightly closed or if the tips are brown then the artichokes may be old and will not be as tender when cooked
Stuffed Italian Artichokes
- 1 artichoke per person (this recipe is for the three that I have prepared)
- 1 lemon, cut into quarters
- enough water, to come up to within 2.5cm of the top of prepared artichokes
- 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup finely grated Grana Padano parmesan cheese
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- The inner core of the stems, chopped into small cubes
- 1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground blackpepper
Dressing for Artichokes:
- 2 1/2 cups of cooking liquid
- 3 Tblsp of white balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tblsp of Extra Virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Cut the artichoke from the stem leaving 2 centimeters or so to make handling while washing them easy
- Trim off any sharp barbs at the tips of the leaves with kitchen scissors
- Open up the bud and carefully separate the layers of petals all the way into the centre of the artichoke as shown in the image below. This will create the spaces where the stuffing will be put as well as allowing us to clean the artichoke.
- Wash between the layers of leaves by emersing them in the sink filled with fresh water to get out any particles of soil. Then remove, shake the water from the artichokes and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Pull off the smaller circle of petals at the bottom and trim back the stalk to 1 cm to allow the artichoke to be stabilised in the cooking pot.
- Cut the stems in half and using a sharp knife, cut out the tender inner core. Then cut this core into small cubes.
- Place the breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, salt, pepper and the chopped stalk core into a bowl, stirring them well to combine
- Add the chopped parsley and stir through well
- Stand the artichoke in a bowl big enough to support it. Then spoon the bread stuffing mix into the artichoke, making sure that it goes throughout the layers right into the centre of the bud and press it down firmly.
- To prevent the artichokes from tipping up while cooking, choose a large pot that will hold them snuggly in place while still having some space for the air to circulate above them
- Then fill the pot with salted water to within 2.5cm of the tops of the artichokes and place the lemon wedges into the water around them
- Use a skewer to poke holes into the stuffing and then spoon some of the liquid into the stuffing to moisten it and allow the liquid to penetrate. Then drizzle some Extra Virgin olive oil over the stuffing
- Bring the water to the boil and then lower to simmer and cook gently for an hour or until a leaf can be easily removed from the artichoke
- When cooked prepare the dressing to serve with the artichoke. Remove a cup of the cooking liquid to a pyrex jug and add the white balsamic vinegar and Extra Virgin olive oil and stir well. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Place each stuffed artichoke in a seving dish and pour a little of the dressing over the stuffing. Set a side dish to collect the dicarded fibrous inedible parts of the petals as the flesh is eaten
Note that the artichokes can be eater hot or cold as you prefer.
How to Eat Artichokes:
Use your fingers and take the outer petals of the artichoke, one at a time and note the fleshy base of the underside of the petal, that is attached to the heart. Pull away this flesh by drawing the leaf through closed teeth and then discard the fibrous part of the petals to a side dish. Continue in this way, eating the delicious and most bread stuffing as you go until you reach the heart of the artichoke that is covered by the fibrous choke.
Below are images of an artichoke heart covered by the fibrous choke and one that has been cleaned. Gently remove the choke with a knife and fork and savour the delicate and tasty heart of the artichoke.
Truly, when eating an artichokes, the best is saved for last!!
Growing Your Ingredients: