I’m going to admit it right upfront, I’m not an artichoke person. I mean, I love to eat them, but I didn’t grow up with them, and I really didn’t know how to handle them in their whole form. I just think they are so beautiful, and when I saw these huge specimens at Trader Joe’s I thought it was about time I got familiar with them. Maybe it’s beginners luck, but this recipe turned out awesomely well, and I realized that prepping artichokes isn’t all that mysterious at all. This is one of my favorite kinds of posts to write, because in the process of making this dish I’ve introduced a whole bunch of delicious new possibilities into my life. Maybe it will do the same for some of you!
So, artichokes are technically giant flower buds, isn’t that cool? They’re related to the thistle and they’re in season from March through May, which is why I saw a big pile of them at TJs this weekend. I like the idea of stuffing artichokes because you get to eat the leaves and the heart, so nothing is wasted. These were so satisfying that Grant and I agreed we could have eaten them for dinner with nothing more than a small salad on the side.
After you trim them and scrape out the inedible ‘choke’, you will need to immerse your artichokes in cold lemon water to keep them from turning brown. This site has a good visual tutorial on how to prepare them if you’d like more detail. For this recipe I left the outer leaves intact.
The stuffing for these artichokes is a simple but highly flavored Provencal inspired bread crumb stuffing, seasoned with the classic French blend of Herbes de Provence. I’m going to give you directions on how to make your own herb blend because when I went to use my store bought version, I gave it a sniff and realized it had absolutely no scent left at all. It might as well have been dried hay. That can be so discouraging, because the herbs aren’t cheap to begin with. But if you don’t use them very often, and they sit in the cupboard for a year or more, they will lose it completely. Luckily it’s easy to blend your own. Herbes de Provence usually has some lavender in it. If you can find it, great, but you can make do with out it as well. I really like the extra small herbs and spices that Whole Foods Sells. They come in tiny .1 oz boxes which means you can afford to buy more variety and you’ll more likely use them up before they go stale. Homemade Herbes de Provence makes a really nice host or hostess gift if you package it in a beautiful little tin or jar.
- 2 large artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 stalk celery, minced
- 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped (packed in oil, or, if dried, reconstituted with a little boiling water)
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp herbes de Provence* (recipe below)
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley
- lemon wedges
- 1 tsp dried savory
- 1 tsp dried tarragon
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp lavender buds
- Set oven to 375F
- Toss the herbes de Provence herbs together and store in an airtight container.
- Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze the juice of one lemon into it. Throw the lemon rinds in as well.
- Work with one artichoke at a time. Rinse the artichokes and trim off the stems so they will sit flat. Using a sharp knife, trim off the top inch and a half, cutting straight across. Dip the artichoke in the lemon water after each cut, to prevent browning. You can also rub it directly with the cut lemon.
- Scoop out the center of the artichoke with a small spoon. A serrated grapefruit spoon works best. First you will scoop out the purplish petals, and then you will get to the 'choke', the very fluffy white hairy stuff. Scoop it all out without removing any of the delicious flesh that lies beneath it. Keep dipping in lemon juice as you go. When you finish with one artichoke, put it into the bowl of lemon water, face down.
- Meanwhile set a steamer basket in a large pot and fill with just enough water to reach the bottom of the basket. Heat the water to a boil and add the artichokes, face up. Steam them, covered, for 15 minutes, then remove from the pot and set the artichokes into a baking pan.
- Make the stuffing by heating the olive oil and butter in a skillet and adding the onion, celery and garlic. Saute, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato, breadcrumbs, herbes, and salt and pepper. When you add the herbes, crush them slightly between your fingers to bring out their flavor. Toast on medium high heat, stirring constantly, for another 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the lemon zest, cheese, and parsley and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
- Fill the cavities of the artichokes with the stuffing, letting some of the stuffing fall down into the outer leaves as well. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Pour about 1/2 cup of water into the baking dish, and bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes until the artichoke is tender.
- Serve hot, sprinkled with more parsley and lemon wedges on the side.
To eat, start by pulling off the outer leaves and eating the tender bottom portion of each leaf. Work your way inward, and the leaves will become more tender as you go. You will eventually get to the heart, which is the best part.
I am really thrilled with this recipe. The stuffing has tons of flavor and the artichoke was cooked perfectly. I’m glad I discovered this early in the season, I’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for.