Monday, April 14, 2014

Stuffed artichoke halves, baby artichokes, and Jerusalem artichokes

Fiore Viola artichoke and Sangria artichoke
Ah, artichokes. When I was first introduced to them, I was told how laborious they were to prepare.

Well, yeah, they can be. But they don't have to be.

Part of the angst of that first artichoke recipe came from wrestling the choke out of them.

If you're not familiar with artichoke prep, the choke is a fuzzy section that's inedible and annoying. It's stuck to the very tasty base of the artichoke. And it's guarded by those tight leaves*.

So, scraping a choke out of a whole, uncooked artichoke isn't fun.

But it's what I was told had to be done, particularly if I wanted to stuff the artichoke. I tried removing the chokes before I cooked and after I cooked. They came out a little easier after cooking the artichokes, but it still wasn't fast-n-easy cooking. Which was more my speed at that time. And then that same recipe called for inserting stuffing deep into each leaf so each bite had a bit of stuffing.

Oh, and of course you had to trim the top of every single artichoke leaf.

It wasn't particularly difficult, but it was a little more finicky than I wanted it to be.

But then I thought, gee, why not make it easier? A whole artichoke standing up with stuffing by every leaf and in the center is an impressive presentation, for sure. But who am I trying to impress? I just want to eat the darned things. Bonus points if they look nice, yes. But easy preparation means I get to eat them more often. And that's my goal.

So, I decided the smart thing to do was cook the artichokes whole - no need to trim leaves or rub the cut sides with lemon, or douse them immediately into lemon water. Just cook them whole, then cut in half.

That's what's going on here. And, bonus, since the artichokes I got had long-ish stems, I could just leave the stems attached for tasty eating since they were never going to need to stand upright.

To make things even easier, I cooked them in a pressure cooker. It cut the cooking time waaaaay down. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can cook them in any pot they'll fit into. They're done when the bottom can be pierced easily and a a leaf pulls out easily.

Stuffed Artichoke Halves

For the artchokes:
2 very large artichokes
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1 tablespoon Penzey's Greek seasoning

Lemon butter for dipping/drizzling:
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Trim a slice off the bottom of the artichoke stem. The stem is tasty - you don't have to cut it off. Peel the stem if you like, but it will hold up better if you don't peel. In that case, you just need to scoop the edible stuff out of the stem part and leave the tough part behind. your choice.

To make cooking much faster, I used my pressure cooker. It took 9 minutes after it came to pressure, and I cooked the artichokes in water with some lemon juice added - I squeezed the rest of the lemon juice from the lemon that gave me the 2 teaspoons into the water, then added the lemon halves as well.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, just cook them in boiling salted lemoned water until a leaf comes out easily when tugged and the stem is tender.

While the artichokes are cooking, combine the bread crumbs, butter, and seasoning in a small bowl. If you don't happen to have the Green seasoning, use an Italian blend, or your favorite dried herbs.

Drain the artichokes and set aside just long enough so you can handle them. Cut in half vertically - from tip to stem.

Scoop out the fuzzy choke in the center and remove some of the small center leaves to make room for stuffing.

If you like, drizzle some of the butter/lemon combination onto the artichoke. Otherwise, reserve this for use at the table.

Fill center of the artichoke halves with the seasoned bread crumbs.

Bake until artichokes are warmed and crumbs are browned, 10 min.

Serve with lemon-butter for dipping or drizzling.

You can also prep the artichokes ahead of time then refrigerate, then bake them covered until warm, then uncover to brown the bread crumbs.

*I know they're not technically leaves, since the artichoke is actually a flower. But they're leaf-like structures that are green and look like leaves. Gold leaf isn't a botanical leaf, either. So let's just roll with it.

Little Chokes

Baby artichokes can be prepped in much the same way as their grown-up friends - cook them until tender - about 5 minutes in a pressure cooker, then cut them in half.

If they're small enough, you might not need to remove the choke - it's likely to be tender enough to eat.

Drizzle with lemon butter - the same recipe as above - or sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake, just like with the larger ones.

Or, if you like, after you've sliced them in half, you can toss them in a saute pan with a little butter to brown them gently.

Need info on how to eat artichokes? There's instruction towards the end of this video, along with some other useful info:

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, aren't from Jerusalem, and they're not related to artichokes at all. But they taste a bit like artichokes.

I cooked a pound of them, like this:

Boil the Jerusalem artichokes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. When they're cool enough to handle, peel them, then slice or cut into chunks or wedges, as desired.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, then add the Jerusalem artichokes. Cook until browned lightly. Add chopped chives.

Serve warm with a squeeze of lemon, if desired.

Disclaimer: I received these vegetables from Frieda's Specialty Produce for my use. I was not required to write about them.