While out with a friend recently at Lincoln, I had an abrupt realization – while I do not consider myself to have always known how to prepare and enjoy many fruits and vegetables, as a child, my mom always enjoyed making and sharing artichokes with us. I thought this was completely normal until I brought it up during the meal and my friend looked at me a bit puzzled. As we ordered our way through Jenn Louis‘ happy hour menu, the Jewish-Style Fried Artichokes with Lemon caught my eye. Once on the table, I sliced my crispy little beauties into quarters and greedily popped one into my mouth. These were slightly different to how I normally ate them growing up (as Jerusalem artichokes tend to be smaller in size to what I was used to), but the flavor profile was certainly there – crispy outside and a soft, warm, buttery heart at the center. I could feel myself grinning with child-like delight. I highly suggest working one’s way through Lincoln’s menu – it is an absolute delight.
Later on I asked Ktams – had he grown up with artichokes? Only pickled artichoke hearts – and there’s a traumatic childhood story that goes along with them that I will leave for another time ;). It’s difficult to process at times that one’s childhood was so different from others – recently, I read a piece about a writer who grew up with parents that were professional ballroom dancers so instead of a living room they had a ballroom retrofit into their house – this was never odd to him, but it made him special in a way. I suppose this is sort of how I feel about the fact that I had the benefit of growing up with artichokes around. Such an odd food that is usually only seen in the processed form that resembles The Cheesecake Factory’s spinach artichoke dip. Now might be a good time to note that homemade spinach artichoke dip is equivalent to heaven and NEVER a bad party appetizer (my mom taught me this sage piece as well).
My favorite part of the artichoke is always the heart. Once you’ve plucked and eaten every little leaf, what remains is considered the heart. It takes a bit of care to ensure that you’ve removed the fuzzy little filaments (I prefer using a grapefruit spoon or a small serrated knife), but once drizzled with a touch of good olive oil or butter and toasted, the artichoke texture really comes to life. Eating artichokes with my mom usually meant the house was quiet, most of the meal had already been consumed, and the dishes were stacked up ready to be washed. My dad would retire to the family room to read, and she and I would just sit next to one another talking and sharing an artichoke and its heart.
As Mother’s day is this weekend, I wanted to surprise my mom with a new way to enjoy one of my favorite foods I enjoyed while growing up with her – we grilled them, steamed them, stuffed them, and baked them. Thank you mom for introducing me to such a fun food.
Citrus Stuffed Artichokes
2 large, whole artichokes (or 3-4 small ones)
1/2 Lemon, plus 2 lemons, juiced
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 c chicken broth or water
2 cloves garlic, plus 5 garlic cloves, minced, divided
4 sprigs fresh marjoram, chopped
2 T rosemary, chopped
2 bay leaves
12-15 oz ricotta cheese
2 preserved lemon slices, chopped (plus more for garnish)
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
8 oz fontina cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Begin with prepping the artichokes by rinsing them under cold water. Cut the top inch off the artichoke and cut the stem down as pictured above. Tear off the coarser petals located toward the stem and discard. Cut the artichokes in half, then, with kitchen scissors, trim the tips of the artichoke leaves–this will make them less prickly to pick and eat later. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Take one of the lemons and rub it over the artichokes, being sure to get both sides–I’ll even squeeze some juice into the center for good measure. This will assist in keeping the leaves greener while they bake. Combine oil, rest of lemon juice, broth, garlic and herbs in a casserole dish. Cover, and bake for 30 minutes or until tender.
As the bake time is winding down, it’s time to work on the filling. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, chopped preserved lemons, minced garlic and spinach. Add to this the egg and a majority of the fontina cheese (some should be reserved to top the artichokes).
Remove the artichokes from the oven and then the pan. Reserve the broth in the pan for later. Carefully remove the choke (the fibrous part of the artichoke – this doesn’t taste good – discard). Spoon in the cheese mixture, and add each half back to the pan on their backs. At this point you can add a few last spoonfuls of filling, top with cheese, salt and pepper. At this point you may also decide to add some breadcrumbs to the topping, but I prefer to leave this recipe gluten-free. Broil the artichokes on high for up to 5 minutes (until tops brown). Remove from oven and serve immediately topped with a few spoonfuls of the reserved broth. Garnish with preserved lemons and your favorite hot sauce.
This item is especially great alongside a steak–I find it’s a bit reminiscent of a twice baked potato but oh so interesting! The broth in this recipe is also quite delicious! I think it would be lovely reduced and put over the top of parmesan-crusted baked chicken with green beans or added to a soup even.
The above recipe was adapted from Tyler Florence’s Braised Artichokes. Looking to learn more about artichokes?
Check out these neat articles on the vegetable: