I have always had a special love for the artichoke. Even though I had never tasted this vegetable growing up, I always found something intriguing about them. I had a platonic admiration until one day I sampled an artichoke heart and it conquered my heart …literally. When I was dating my husband, he splurged for me with a special treat, his mom’s homemade stuffed globe artichokes. This is my mother-in-law’s famous artichoke recipe and it’s now one of favorite dishes.
What are artichokes?
To me, the artichoke is a mystical vegetable: very tasty and extremely nutritious. In reality, it’s a bud of a large perennial thistle that was cultivated and beloved all over the Mediterranean region. They can get tall too, up to 6-feet.
The bud itself is layers and layers of petals that have little thorns at the end. The flesh of the outer leaf is meaty and fibrous. The inner leaves become softer and softer. The center of the artichoke is the heart, and on top of it sits the pappus, the fuzzy feathery hairs that will eventually bloom and turn into a purple flower.
Even though the spring is the peak season for harvesting them, artichokes are available all year round. The biggest producer and consumers of artichokes are Italy and Egypt. In the United States, California is the leading supplier and distributor.
In addition to fresh artichoke, canned and frozen variety are readily available. For this recipe, we need fresh artichokes.
How to prep the artichokes?
I have to confess that I am not an expert on how to choose and buy artichokes. Living in Colorado we don’t have access to farms that grow and sell fresh artichokes. The supermarket selection is scarce and not always at its prime.
These are the guidelines that I follow:
They have to be heavy, green, with little to no blemishes, with leaves tight and closed. The lighter artichokes mean that they have bigger pappus, that middle fuzzy part that we need to scoop out and throw away. The heavier the artichoke, the larger the heart.
What is a choke and a heart of artichoke?
The choke is the fibrous and stringy center. It needs to be removed during eating because it is unpleasant to eat. It can be removed before stuffing, but I think it is easier to remove after it is cooked. It’s like the bone in the meat that provides flavor but you remove it while eating. Once you reach the center you will notice a cluster that has pointy leaves. With a small spoon, scoop the whole cluster out. Kudos – you have reached the heart of the artichoke, the best part of the meal.
Cheesy – Easy Baked Stuffed Artichokes
- 3 globe artichoke
- 1 lemon large
- 1 cup breadcrumbs homemade or store-brought
- 1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese grated
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese diced
- 1/4 cup parsley finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 1 lemon for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Preparing the artichokes
- Squeeze the lemon into a bowl of water. Save the lemon half to rub the cut artichokes.
- Trim the artichokes by removing the stems and chopping off an inch from the top. Remove a few of the bottom leaves and cut the thorny end of the leaves with scissors. Loosen up the buds by pulling the leaves apart, exposing the cavities in between.
- Rub the lemon onto the cut part and submerge the ready artichoke heads into the water bath.
Making the stuffing
- Combine the cheeses with the breadcrumbs and season them with salt and pepper. Add the chopped parsley.
- Start stuffing the artichoke from it's outer leaves and work your way to the middle. Push the stuffing between the leaves.
- Arrange the artichokes in a deep baking dish, and enough water to cover the bottom of the artichokes (about an inch).
- Cover and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the outer leaves are easily pulled off. Squeeze fresh lemon and serve.