Spicy Stuffed Artichokes

Although the most famous Jewish-Italian artichoke dish might be the deep-fried Carciofi alla Giudia (Artichokes Jewish-style), Italian Jews enjoyed artichokes many ways. It helps that they got a head start on other Italians by warmly embracing the petal-packed thistle buds after the vegetable was likely introduced to Sicily by Arab conquerors.

One of the ways the vegetable delighted palates was stuffed with herbs like parsley or mint and breadcrumbs. That method remains a beloved Italian and Jewish-Italian rendition to this day. And no wonder.

Although artichokes are quite wonderful trimmed and steamed and served with lemon and oil, the stuffing makes them more substantial and gives you flavor and a crunchy texture to scoop up with your leaves—kind of like chips and dip all in one dish. And it comes with a bonus that the “chips” offer plentiful nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C, along with fiber.

The thorny-tipped bulbs can be a little intimidating (a useful defense mechanism), but with just a bit of patience, offer great rewards. Often they are stuffed whole, but I like halving them for easier removal of the fuzzy choke, plus you can get more stuffing across the artichoke and they are easier to serve.

As you are cleaning the artichokes, keep a bowl nearby for collecting trimmings to keep them from overwhelming your workspace. Also, you can skip the common step of filling a bowl with lemon water and dropping the cut artichokes into it—it’s not needed to prevent extensive browning here (the cut edges will brown, but that’s okay). Just be sure to add the lemon to the cooking water per the recipe. 

My stuffing relies on the customary herbs but adds red pepper flakes for a little kick and, rather than anchovies or anchovy paste, I used Worcestershire sauce. A long roast (up to 90 minutes) in the oven gives the artichokes a deeper flavor, and adding the breadcrumb mixture later during baking ensures a crispy texture. Let some of the breadcrumb filling fall off the artichokes into the cooking liquid—it will form an incredibly flavorful paste delightful for spreading on the artichoke heart. The dish is at once messy, homey, and special.

Although you can often find artichokes year round, they are best and most abundant in spring and fall. When the display piled high with gorgeous green artichokes makes you do a double-take, it’s time to grab a handful and walk in the delicious footsteps of Italian and Jewish-Italian cooks. 

* New to eating artichokes? A quick primer: Start by pulling out a leaf and scooping some stuffing. Pull the leaf through your teeth, scraping off the tender flesh and filling. Discard the rest of the leaf, which is tough and inedible. Continue this way until you reach the bottom, or heart. If you didn’t already remove the fuzzy choke, scrape that off with a spoon and discard it before savoring the best part, the tender and flavorful artichoke heart.

Spicy Stuffed Artichokes

Oven-roasted halved artichokes form a delcious base for a slightly spicy and crispy herb stuffing. Let some of the breadcrumb filling fall off the artichokes into the cooking liquid—it will form an incredibly flavorful paste delightful for spreading on the artichoke bottom. Note that cooking time will vary depending on the size of the artichokes. Choose artichokes that are heavy for their size and that have tightly packed leaves.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian, Jewish

Ingredients
  

  • 2 large artichokes
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (panko works very well)
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves finely chopped
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Prepare the artichokes (see the note below).
  • Place them cut side up in an oven-safe pan with a lid. Add water to come halfway up the sides of the artichokes and sprinkle the lemon juice over the artichokes and into the water. Drizzle with olive oil and season the artichokes and liquid with pepper to taste and about 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Cover and roast in the oven for 60 to 90 minutes, until tender and a leaf comes free with just a gentle tug.
  • Meanwhile, make the stuffing: In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, basil, parsley, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, and Parmesan, plus salt (a generous ¼ teaspoon) and pepper to taste. Stir in olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) until the mixture is just dampened.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and carefully drain some of the liquid, leaving about ¼-inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan. Gently place the breadcrumb stuffing in the artichoke cavities and nestle it between leaves as best you can, letting excess fall to the bottom of the pan (it will absorb the liquid and become a flavorful spread). Return the pan uncovered to the oven and bake until the topping is browned and crispy, about 10 minutes.
  • Cool slightly. Remove to a platter and scoop out the paste from the bottom of the pan to serve alongside the artichokes.

Notes

To clean and prep the artichokes:
1. Remove the stem (it’s edible, so if you like, peel off the tough outer layer, cut the stem into large chunks, and toss it in the pan with the artichokes).
2. Remove one layer of tough outer dark leaves from the artichoke.
3. Cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke and trim off any remaining pointy parts on the leaves.
4. Halve the artichoke vertically and remove the pointy center leaves and fuzzy “choke”—a melon baller is an ideal tool for this.
Keyword Artichokes

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