Monday, 8 February 2016

Sicilian Blossoms in Winter

Carciofi Ripieni di Couscous, alla Siciliana
Sicilian Styled Artichokes Stuffed with Couscous

There is something so wonderful about artichokes- their unique and almost intoxicating aroma and they are one of a few favorites of mine that really evoke a sense of pride in my Sicilian heritage.

This evening, I decided to create a filling for these 2 lovely examples, using some of the most typical flavors. But rather than using the typical breadcrumb filling that we would commonly use nowadays- I decided to use couscous, to pay tribute to the Arabic influences in Sicilian cooking that I love so much.

What more wonderful way to begin a Sicilian, or Italian meal? And what more delicious way to enjoy these wonderful, edible blossoms? You know I am not one for dipping my artichokes in any stuff and nonsense- I much prefer to stuff and steam mine... And especially so when they get crisped-up under the broiler at the end!

My ingredients to prepare 2 medium sized artichokes were: about 1 teacupful of couscous, 2 lemons, approximately 1 tablespoon each of pine nuts, raisins and ground (or finely chopped) sun-dried tomatoes, plenty of mint and parsley, salt, pepper and some good olive oil.

Pine nuts and raisins are a very Arabic addition to many traditional Sicilian meals- and the "capuliato", which is a ground paste of sorts, made from sun-dried tomatoes, is about as purely Sicilian as Sicilian can be! Add mint and lemon into the equation- and they you have them- ALL of the most wonderful flavors of the island, packed into its most glorious of blossoms... Simply divine!

Step one in the preparation is to trim away the tough stalks, then to halve the artichokes and to remove the "choke" from the center- you can do this quite easily using a teaspoon. Once you have done so, squeeze lemon juice over the cut surfaces to prevent them from oxidizing too much.

Next, prepare the filling by simply adding all of the ingredients together- couscous, ground sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins, chopped herbs, lemon zests and plenty of pepper.

Spread open the leaves of the artichoke and spoon-in a little of the filling as evenly as you can manage. As you can see, I did not spoon too much inside- remember the couscous will swell to at least twice its size by the time it is cooked, 

I then placed them onto a steam rack, popped them into a saucepan with boiling water, squeezed plenty of lemon juice on top, put on the lid and said "good-bye" to them for the next 45 minutes, whilst they steamed away.

After 45 minutes they were tender, delicious, moist and aromatic with all of those great flavors inside!

I then drizzled them generously with olive oil and popped them under the broiler, at the highest setting, for 5-10 minutes until they become crispy on top and wonderfully golden.

Just like this! 

I served them with a few slices of lemon for an extra squeeze of juice before enjoying... and then enjoy them I certainly did! And I hope that you do too!

I think they look sooooo beautiful! How about you?

No comments:

Post a Comment