Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Food for Fingers & Forks!

Carciofi alla Menta & Pomodori Secchi con Patate & Peperoni
Artichokes with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Mint, with Potatoes & Peppers

Sometimes, you need to "get your fingers dirty" when you eat... if you want to enjoy certain irresistible things that is! What would chicken drumsticks or wings be without the joy of holding them in your hands and biting into them? Or of course, beautiful artichokes like these?

Sure, you will need a side dish for the leaves, but yes, artichokes are one of the most delicious foods that I know! I decided to try a fun, colorful and extremely flavorful preparation this evening, as a test for an upcoming dinner party... and yes! I think is going to be our very appetizing appetizer!

Artichokes, potatoes and mint are a classic combination in Italian cuisine, often accompanied by peas- and that is a combination that I really love. But today, as I have plenty of them, I decided to add some of these sweet and mild Turkish peppers instead, and to add sun-dried tomatoes and lemon to the artichokes to make them really flavor-packed!

Also, I popped everything under the broiler for 5-10 minutes to get them nice and roasted and to make them even more delicious... and why not?

And the best thing is... once you have enjoyed plucking away at the flavor-packed leaves, chatting with your friends and sipping on a glass of wine, you are rewarded by the tender heart of the artichoke which you can then enjoy with the peppers and potatoes... you may use you knives and forks for them- hehe! And I promise... you will enjoy them very, very much!

This is a dish where quantities and measures are... not important! You know how many guests you are expecting and how large you want your appetizer to be! But all kidding aside- one small artichoke per person is plenty. These were just about the size of a lemon, by the time the outer leaves were removed, just to give you a rough idea. So, you will need your artichokes, potatoes and peppers, 1 sun-dried tomato per artichoke and some mint, parsley, 1 lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil for seasoning and finishing. The End.

And yes, I know I repeat myself over and over when it comes to artichokes... but I definitely, definitely always prefer to stuff and never dip mine!

These were so young and tender that the stalks were an added treat... so I made sure to leave plenty of them attached, but of course to peel away the tough, ridged outer skin and pluck away the outer leaves. I then halved them, cut across the base of the "choke" and removed it, and rubbed all of the cut surfaces with lemon to prevent them oxidizing and turning dark.

Next, I finely chopped the mint, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes and a few strips of lemon zest and packed this mixture in-between the leaves of the artichokes. The tomatoes have enough salt in them to season the artichokes- so no need for further salt on the inside.

I peeled and halved the potatoes, added a good pinch of salt to them, set the artichokes on top and then added enough water to cover the potatoes completely and the artichokes up to the center/heart part of them. 

Once the water came up to the boil, I reduced the temperature to a gently rolling simmer, popped on the lid and let them cook for 15 minutes. 

As long as the hearts and the stalks of the artichokes are partly submerged you will be fine- the steam enclosed in the saucepan will take care of the end parts of the leaves... which are inedible anyway of course!

So, around 15-20 minutes later, I carefully lifted the artichokes out of the saucepan and set them onto a baking dish, followed by the potatoes and peppers, which I had halved and seeded and added plenty of freshly ground pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil to all. 

And then I kissed them goodbye, popped them into a hot oven with the broiler turned on... and around 10 minutes later when I opened the oven- everything had been transformed!

The short time in the oven helps to evaporate any excess moisture in the artichokes and lets the sun-dried tomatoes regain their color as well as making the potatoes so much more delicious! All you need now is a last scattering of finely chopped mint and a squeeze of lemon... and to serve... and ENJOY!

Truly a thing of beauty! And soon delicious!

My favorite way to enjoy artichokes!

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