Having spent the last 20 years of our lives on the Central Coast of California, just a few minutes up the coast from Castroville (The Artichoke Capital of the World), spring here in the Circle B Kitchen has traditionally been a celebration of all things artichoke. We’ve cooked them just about any way you can imagine… in pasta, in risotto, on gnocchi, in salsa, and on crostini. We’ve also fried them, and, of course, we’ve steamed them and dipped them in a little mayo.
But a few years back I decided to stuff our artichokes with a cheese-y breadcrumb mixture, which required them to be par-boiled (partially cooked) before stuffing and baking. Well, there was nothing “par” about the cooking that day. I went off and left those poor artichokes boiling for I have no idea how long, and when I pulled them from the water, they completely fell apart. There would be no stuffing that artichoke! Or maybe there would be…
In keeping with our reverence for artichokes, I was NOT going to let all this goodness go to waste. I already had the breadcrumb mixture made, so I just removed the leaves and heart from the artichokes,
arranged the leaves on a baking sheet,
chopped up the heart, combined it with the breadcrumb mixture and placed a dab of this on each leaf.
Then I sprinkled those with parmesan cheese, a little lemon juice and olive oil and baked them.
I will just say here that all thoughts of the original recipe have been forgotten through the years, as this is how we stuff our artichokes now. One leaf at a time.
Every year since, as soon as artichokes begin appearing in the produce section (which would be about now), I pull out my big pot and boil the heck out of a bunch of them. And so it was that last week I made these wondrous little artichoke bites, and amid the umming and yumming, we remembered that now and then, with a little coaxing, good things can sometimes rise from the ruins of one’s mistakes. This is one of our favorite mistakes. Here’s the recipe….
Artichoke Stuffing Bites
Serves 2 to 4 as an appetizer
1 large artichoke (the leaves should be tightly closed to the body of the artichoke)
1 lemon, halved
½ cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup grated asiago cheese
½ tsp each of salt and fresh ground pepper
juice of 1/2 of the lemon (reserve the other half for finishing)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cut the stem off of the artichoke. Place the artichoke in the boiling water stem side up (if it will cooperate) and cook for about an hour. The leaves should almost fall off the artichoke when it’s ready. Drain upside down until cool enough to handle.
While the artichoke is boiling, saute the garlic and shallot in a little olive oil until soft. Let cool. Mix the rest of the stuffing ingredients together and then add the garlic and shallot to the mix.
Remove the leaves from the artichoke, reserving only the largest ones with the most heart still attached. Remove the choke from the heart (it should be easy to scoop out with a spoon or you can use a knife). Cut the heart up into tiny dice and add it to the stuffing mix.
Arrange the leaves on a baking sheet and drop a teaspoon or two of stuffing onto each leaf. Spray the leaves with a fine mist of olive oil (or lightly drizzle) to keep them from drying out while cooking. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until the stuffing is nicely browned.
Place the leaves on a serving platter, drizzle with a little olive oil and the juice of the remaining half of the lemon. Sprinkle with a little more parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
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