The Farro and Roasted Root Vegetable dish from David Lebovitz was great, too. (www.davidlebovitz.com) Thank heavens I'd done the prep work for it (read: roasted the vegetables and cooked the farro, and then refrigerated them separately) because after digging over 40 holes in the stoniest soil I've ever seen, and making sure that 40 plants were firmly secured in their new homes in the earth, and then hoisting all the mini-boulders and rock-wall-sized boulders over to the property's rock walls, there wasn't going to be much cooking going on around here! I sauteed up a chicken breast (one for the two of us...that bird was on steroids or something) and tossed the veggies and farro together, and called it dinner. At 9 p.m.
Guess what we're doing again tomorrow? Yep, planting more trees. Hey, it's Earth Day-and-Easter weekend--what better way to celebrate the two?
Other than with maple smoked ham and stuffed artichokes, of course.
If you've never had a whole artichoke, they can seem daunting. I grew up eating these (Italian side of the family) and they're one of my favorite spring foods. I took the recipe out of The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane, and it consistently comes out just like I remember the ones my great aunts made. I think I may even be converting Larry, who was hesitant about them at first.
Please try them--if you like artichoke hearts, you'll love this!
(from The North End Cookbook, adapted by Me)
2 whole artichokes, cleaned (see below)
1 lemon half
1/4 c olive oil, divided
3 small cloves of garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup of moderately fine breadcrumbs (I've used homemade and the ones from a paper can--I like'em both)
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup shredded parmigiano (or Grana Padano)
1. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning in a medium skillet over moderate to low heat. When the garlic just starts to sizzle and give off its aroma, add the breadcrumbs. Toss and toast for about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let cool a few minutes. Toss with the cheese.
2. Holding the artichoke steady, with the same hand, gently spread out two to three of the bottom layer of leaves. Sprinkle in a small amount of the breadcrumb mixture, about a teaspoon. Repeat until the bottom layer is "stuffed" (you don't want a ton of breadcrumbs in each layer; just enough to fill the bottom where the leaf joins the rest of the choke). Move into the next layer, and so on, until you get to the fine leaves at the center. Open gently but don't worry about separating every leaf, and pack in a final bit of breadcrumbs. Repeat with the next artichoke. Drizzle the tops with the remaining tbsp olive oil.
3. In a saucepan large enough to hold the two artichokes side by side, add 1 cup of water. Thrown in the peeled artichoke stems and the squeezed lemon; nestle the artichokes in. Bring the water to a boil, put the lid on and reduce the heat. Keep the water at a simmer for 40-60 minutes. Start testing at 40 by tugging on a leaf near the center of the choke. If it slips out easily, the artichokes are done. Remove from the pan and let cool (along with the stems).
4. How to eat: pull the leaves out one at a time, and grasping the base of the leaf firmly between your teeth, but with some give, "strip" the breading and the fleshy part from the artichoke--don't eat the whole leaf--it's tough. Repeat until you get to the tender center leaves--some of these you can eat whole. When you've stripped the choke down to the almost-center, you'll be faced with the fuzzy actual "choke." DO NOT EAT THIS. Prickly central... Using a spoon, scrape all of the fuzzy, small, prickly leaves out. Once cleaned out, you're left with the artichoke bottom. DO EAT THIS!!!!!!
How to clean an artichoke:
1. Cut the stem off of the artichoke where it joins the globe. Peel the stem and rub with the cut side of the lemon. Rub the cut side of the lemon on the base of the globe, too.
2. Cut the top of the globe off, about 1 inch of it. I usually rinse with cold water, shake dry, and then rub the top with the lemon.
3. Turn the globe stem-side up, and bang the top of it (leaf-side down) firmly against the counter (kind of like you would with iceberg lettuce to get the core out). This will loosen the leaves, making it easier for stuffing. Dribble lemon juice all over the top. Proceed with recipe.