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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Stuffed Roasted Artichoke

 The pleasure of delecting an artichoke down to its heart must be earned.  First of all an artichoke is a bud that has not yet blossomed into it's peacock like beauty.  It is picked at a stage of its young life where the heart is still tender and innocent.  Since it has not yet blossomed, it is closed firmly to protect its tender heart.  If you want to eat it, you must find your way around its protective spines to access that soft inner piece of glory.  Apparently, innocence is packed with vitamins...
Once it is picked at the correct stage of its development, there are a number of ways to prepare and eat it, all of which require determination.  I chose to stuff it with quinoa, millet, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and lemon juice mixture and then roast it topped with bread crumbs and parmesan.  The Italian way is usually the same but with breadcrumbs or meat.
This is an excellent decision.. as long as you get the cooking time right.  It can take anywhere between 40 and 90 minutes depending on the size of your artichoke.
Serves 1
1 large violet artichoke
1-2 cups water
juice from 1/4 lime
1/2 cup quinoa millet mix
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp grated garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch fleur de sel
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red chile flakes
1 handful breadcrumbs
1 handful grated parmesan
olive oil to drizzle
3 Tbsp excellent quality olive oil
few squirts glassy balsamic vinegar
cracked black pepper
juice from 1/4 lime
1 Tbsp grated garlic
pinch fleur de sel
1.  Prepare the artichoke.  Trim the stem of the artichoke so that it can sit upright without propping.  Trim the top and cut off any spines.  My large violet artichoke did not have very spiny leaves.  Very carefully, try to open the center of the artichoke little by little by spreading the leaves from the center apart.  It should loosen up just a bit and you will start to see the very tender leaves and the hairy part. That hairy part is what develops into that pretty purple flower that looks like the top of a peacock's head.  It is also inedible and so you want to remove as much of it as possible so that the eating part of the experience can be as smooth and pleasant as possible.  Use a knife to gently cut the hairy part away from the heart, then use a spoon to scoop out as much of that stuff as possible.  You will be surprised as to how much is actually in there.
2.  Ah ok now you have a clean, emptied artichoke.  Give it a nice squirt of lime juice in the center and rub the leaves between your fingers in some of the juice.
3.  Now stuff it.  Mix together all the stuffing ingredients and spoon into the center of the artichoke and into the crevices of the looser leaves.
4.  Top with the breadcrumbs and parmesan, then give an extra glug of olive oil all around.  Place upright in an baking dish and fill with water.
5.  Cover with foil and bake at 200°C 400°F for 80 minutes.  It will braise on the outside and steam on the inside.
6.  During this time, make the dipping sauce by stirring all the sauce ingredients together and then squirting some of that glassy balsamic vinegar into it to get a swirly effect (that I didn't catch on camera).
7.  Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until the outermost leaves detach with a gentle tug.
Let cool for about 10 minutes before rewarding yourself for all your hard work.

The leaves have just a bit of flesh on them that are best with the dipping sauce.  Please eat with your hands.  You can use a fork if absolutely necessary to eat some of the stuffing as you work your way to the center.
Once the leaves have been properly consumed, the heart will start to expose.  The innermost leaves are the most tender and may be eaten completely depending on the type of artichoke in your presence.  The hairy part should be mostly gone, but you may need to remove the remaining part.
Then comes the heart.  At this point I had already eaten my stuffing.. which was very nicely cooked, nestled inside its protective bud.
The heart is the trophy you've earned after all the hard work and wait and possible injury.  It is the most delicate part after battling through its thicket of leaves.  It's like the princess you rescue after fighting the dragon.  
Only the worthy will discover her true beauty...

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