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carciofi ripieni (stuffed artichokes)

Globe artichoke

I could write odes to the majesty of the artichoke.  They are chock full of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, and naturally low fat.  (I read an article at the doctor's office today that eating artichokes also prevents depression but, given that I find clipping the thorny ends of the artichoke to be oddly satisfying, I think just being around artichokes brightens my mood.)  I love their vibrant green petals tinged with pink and the teeny little prickers at the tip of the leaves.  

Artichokes boiling in water

And, if there was a kindergarten for vegetables, (and if there was, then, wouldn't baby artichokes and baby squash be the cutest kids in that class?), artichokes would win the award for sharing because they contain a compound called cynarin that diminishes the bitterness and enhances the sweetness of all the other foods you are eating with the artichoke.

 Hollowed artichoke

Italians savor the artichoke and I saw several different preparations when we were in Italy.  But my favorite was the carciofi alla romana at Armando al Pantheon.  On our second night in Rome, we ran to Armando al Pantheon from the Piazza Farnesi in the pouring rain.  The restaurant seated us toward the back, near the kitchen, perhaps because our pants legs were creating pools of water on the ground, and  were placed directly in front of the warming buffet where a layer of bright green artichokes laid, stuffed with mint leaves, bread crumbs, and nuts. 

When we returned home, I set out to reconstruct the recipe.  But, the thing is . . . I don't like mint.  At all.  I don't like Thin Mints, or mint with strawberries, or mint juleps, or mint-anything.  I have three exceptions: mint toothpaste, Andes Mints, and mojitos.  So, while I wanted to make carciofi alla romana, I wanted to make it without the mint.  After months trying variations, I hit upon the solution: equal parts parmigiano, nuts, and parsley. 

Carciofi ripieni (stuffed artichoke)

On a weekday night, after a long day poring through documents or talking to people non-stop or dealing with any other mindless monotony, just cooking this dish perks us right up.  Then once it's done, we pour ourselves glasses of crisp white wine (a necessary addition to this meal --- please don't forget it), sit down, and tear the artichoke apart with ferocity.  Though elegant and beautiful, this is a dish best served to close friends and family.  To eat it, you must pull apart each petal, suck the breading off the petal, lick the excess breading off your fingers, and then move on to the next petal.  At the end, you reach the glorious heart, crowned by a layer of golden brown stuffing.  

* Check out other travelers who are talking about food at Wanderfood Wednesday.   

Carciofi Ripieni (Stuffed Artichokes)

Time: 1 1/2 hours

Serves: 2 people

Ingredients

2 large globe artichokes

2 lemons

1/3 cup grated parmesan (preferably parmigiano reggiano if you have it)

1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, finely ground (we prefer pecans but that's cause we're from Georgia)

1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped (about 1/3 cup chopped parsley)

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pot.  Cut 1 lemon in half.  Squeeze juice from 1 lemon into boiling water and place halves into boiling water.  Cut second lemon into half.  Cut one half into slices and place lemon slices into the boiling water.  You should have half a lemon left. 

3.  Prepare artichokes: Cut off stem of artichokes.  Remove tough and purple leaves at bottom of artichoke.  Cut thorny tips of artichoke leaves using kitchen shears.  Do NOT cut the tops of the artichokes at this point.

4.  Place artichokes in boiling water for 20 minutes.

5.  Mix parmesan, finely ground nuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, parsley, and sliced garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.

6.  Remove artichokes from water with slotted spoon.  Let cool until easy to handle.  Cut top of artichoke with a serrated knife to reveal the interior leaves.  Remove thin pale yellow leaves (I like to do this with a pair of small tongs) in the middle of the artichoke and scoop out hairy choke with a small spoon. 

7.  Gently push back green leaves so the artichoke looks like a blossoming flower and loosely place stuffing in interior cavity and between leaves.  I find that the best way to do this is by gently scooping handfuls of the stuffing and placing it into the artichoke.

8.  Bake artichokes in oven for 45 minutes or until stuffing is golden brown.

08/18/2009 22:10
Oh my you're killing me with this! Can't wait to be semi-permanent so I can cook again!

Excellent post!
08/19/2009 11:03
Yum! I am headed to Rome next month, I am definitely going to keep my eye out for these! How delicious.
Deseree's recent blog post: Arugula; Parmesan and Mushroom Salad
08/19/2009 14:01
YUM - you've got such gorgeous photos, how can we resist??
08/19/2009 14:10
I'm glad you included instructions on how to eat it - it sounds finger licking good, but I always think it looks such an unpromising vegetable
Heather on her travels's recent blog post: A seafood feast at Limski Kanal - in Istria; Croatia
08/19/2009 19:53
Thanks Christine! I know we are going to miss having a kitchen on the road, too.

Deseree, I am so envious that you are going to be in Rome so soon. I will certainly live vicariously through you.

Thanks jessiev! Heather, don't be scared off by the artichoke --- it is well worth the effort to cook and eat it!
08/20/2009 02:52
I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of artichokes mainly because it takes more effort to eat for what you get. But looking at your end product, I'm tempted to start picking at one!

Lovely description about their heart :)
08/20/2009 09:45
this look delicious!
mina's recent blog post: things we'll miss - lunch dates
08/20/2009 19:45
Gourmantic, this is an exception to the rule because you eat both the leaves and the heart. You get a LOT of food out of this one artichoke.

Thanks Mina!
08/24/2009 13:08
I'm not a big artichoke person, as a matter of fact I usually avoid them. Like crab, the seem to be just too much trouble to eat!

HOWEVER - I might be sold on this for my next dinner party. How impressive it would be to pull this out of the oven.
08/24/2009 13:15
Gorgeous - with or without mint. Great recipe, and thanks for sharing!
Liv's recent blog post: The Days are Just Packed
08/24/2009 21:15
Thanks Beth and Liv!
Akila's recent blog post: the pre-world trip freak out
08/27/2009 21:39
That looks so good!
the Provident Woman's recent blog post: Potato Peel Pie
09/02/2009 20:38
Thanks! :)
Akila's recent blog post: hana: this is hawaii
09/08/2009 15:25
Artichokes are so underrated! I've had great success preparing them with a little lemon zest in a crock pot (steaming them for around 10 hours) and then serving them with clarified butter. Looking forward to trying the Carciofi Ripieni recipe!
09/11/2009 10:13
Daniel, I have never done them in a crockpot. If I serve them with clarified butter, we steam them in a regular steamer but I am sure the long steaming brings out lots of flavor.
05/04/2010 08:20
why people are afraid to eat this fantastic vegetable? I love artichoke even more cause there is no need to use a fork just dip in to the vinaigrette! maybe it's only an Italian thing...??
marta's recent blog post: Playing tourists in New York
06/11/2010 22:40
glad you included instructions on how to eat it - it sounds finger licking good, but I always think it looks such an unpromising vegetable
03/09/2011 09:12
That's really interesting, might have to try it myself.
09/07/2011 05:33
sooooooooooo delicious.
06/07/2013 04:00
If you can write odes, I could write a novel about artichokes! I love them, too! They are very delicious and I find them healthy to eat!
06/09/2013 14:57
Yes, they are. They're my favorite veggie!
06/20/2013 05:07
Antichokes! The best veggies ever! And you know why? It is one of the healthiest foods! It is high in anti-oxidants, therefore, it is good for prevention of cancer! My father died of colon cancer 8 years ago and I make sure that I eat antichokes regularly, run regularly (I run half marathon everyday) and eat a balanced diet!
06/20/2013 17:18
Alyssa, they are so healthy and yet amazingly delicious! It always surprises me how good they taste with such minimal effort.

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