Elsewhere on this blog, I’ve written about facing some of my culinary fears like calamari and risotto. Well, last night I faced yet another of them: stuffed artichokes. As I was growing up, they were a frequent side dish at my family’s table, one of my Neapolitan aunt’s favorites. Stuffed with a mixture of dried breadcrumbs, pecorino-Romano cheese, garlic and parsley all moistened with olive oil, they were slowly cooked, over low heat, covered in a pot just large enough to hold them upright, with a modicum of water and a drizzle of olive oil.
As a child, I would simply lick the savory stuffing off the leaves until my aunt admonished me for leaving the best part behind and then proceeded to demonstrate how to eat them properly. She plucked off one of leaves, carefully balancing the stuffing that was on it, placed it between her teeth, closed her mouth, and slowly pulled it out scraping off the edible part of the leaf. After a few tries, some of which left me with a mouthful of leaf threads, I mastered the art of eating these delicious green globes of goodness. They became one of my favorite vegetables growing up, and I often requested that my aunt prepare them when I would return to my childhood home as an adult.
Yet for some reason, I’ve always shied away from cooking them on my own. Yesterday, however, when I saw some beautiful artichokes on sale at the market, I decided to confront my fear. Upon returning home, I searched through some cookbooks for a recipe and was startled when I found one that was identical to my aunt’s in Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Vegetable Cookbook. While I closely followed her clear instructions for preparing the artichokes, I did take some liberties with the measurements of the ingredients, and was a little heavy handed with the cheese and the garlic. The results, however, were superb and made a perfect accompaniment to a chicken sauté with green olives, capers, onions, and diced lemon.
As I didn’t plan on writing this dish up, I don’t have any photographs of its preparation. But the internet has plenty of instructional videos on preparing artichokes as well as a version of Scicolone’s recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website adapted from of her earlier books, which can be accessed by this link.
Author’s Note: This is my first posting after a long hiatus from blogging. I can only attribute my absence to teaching a Saturday writing course to college-bound high-school sophomores. The course, which comes to an end next week, although most rewarding, took far more of my time than I thought it would when I signed up for it. Now that’s it’s over, you can expect postings from me on a more regular basis.