Baby Artichokes Stuffed with Bread Crumbs, Lemon, Mint & Ground Sun-Dried Tomatoes
I love giving flowers as gifts, I really do- and yes, I like flowers in general- only, I never buy them for myself. Unless we are talking about zucchini blossoms, cauliflowers or these little beauties here, that is!
I am more of the "let's turn those into supper!" kind of guy that the, "hey- let me fetch you a vase for those!" kind, I suppose- hate me if you must!
But give me a little love and I will tell you how I prepared these beautiful little artichokes here!
They wouldn't make much of a meal, and would only make for a so-so starter, these little babies here, if you didn't make the effort to make them a little more special. And no, I do not mean dipping them into something! That is not the way I eat my artichokes- I am more of an "old school" kinda guy.
All it takes to transform simple little artichokes into incredibly tasty pieces of culinary art, is some fresh mint and parsley, a lemon for zest, juice and as a base for steaming and baking, a little Parmesan cheese, onion, bread crumbs and sun-dried tomatoes... in this case, wonderfully rich, ground sun-dried tomatoes that I brought back from Sicily. Eat your hearts out! Oh- and a little fruity olive oil of course, to make this flavor combination truly wonderful and complete!
See that richness? That color and variety of flavors right there? You are not going to get that from dipping bland artichoke leaves into and swirled-up and ultimately fatty dip! Just sayin'...
Steamed to perfection and then toasted in the oven for a final, finishing touch, theses not only taste divine, but actually become relatively satisfying and filling, thanks to those bread crumbs- and just look at what a wonderful stuffing they turn into!
Begin by cutting away almost the top half of the artichokes and trimming and peeling the stem. Rub the cut edges and the stem with a slice of lemon, or drop them into lemon juice, to prevent them discoloring.
You are not being wasteful by discarding so much of the artichoke- it isn't edible and will only end up laying in your plate and looking nasty afterwards anyway.
Spread out the leaves, one by one, all the way to the center, where you can check to see if there is any "choke" there at all, but with some small ones, like these, you will be fortunate enough to find that none has grown yet.
For the stuffing, finely chop 2-3 slices of lemon zest, the herbs and the onion, grate a little Parmesan and if you don't have ground sun-dried tomatoes, simply chop up regular ones.
How much will you need? Well, of course, that all depends on how large your artichokes and your onion are etc... so I am just going to say that for my 3 artichokes I needed 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs and around 1 tablespoon each of the other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and mix together thoroughly.
There you have your stuffing, there you have your artichokes... and now begins the fun!
Simply pull each leaf out from the center and either using a spoon or simply your hands, fill up all of the spaces in-between each leaf, from the outside working in, all the way to the center.
Don't worry- it is easy to do, not difficult and is actually a lot of fun! Just work right there in the bowl as it can be a little messy maybe, otherwise.
Set your artichokes on top of a steam rack, on top of some lemon slices, in a saucepan with a tight lid, add water up to the level of the steamer and allow to steam away for 30 minutes.
If you want to make full-sized artichokes, it is the exact-same procedure, but the cooking time will be more like 45-60 minutes.
After steaming, they will be tender and delicious and smell absolutely divine... but look a little sorry for themselves like these do here.
Add a nice drizzle of olive oil to each and then pop them into a hot oven, on the top shelf, for 10-15 minutes at 200°C until they become crispy and brown on top.
What a difference!
Colorful, incredibly flavorful and elegant enough to serve to guests as a part of a wonderful dinner... but simple enough to do that you can treat yourself to them at any time too! Just like I did!
And the best thing is, of course, that the bread crumbs soak up and absorb every bit of every flavor that has been stuffed into the artichokes- as well as the artichokes own wonderful flavor! They become crispy on the outside but remain soft, moist and juicy on the inside- how wonderful some of these "poor peoples dishes" can be!
Yes- that is the kind of flower that I like best! It smells amazing too!