Welcome to my Blogging A-Z April 2018 Challenge. My theme is Food Stories Remembered because there is always a story when food is involved. I consider myself a good home cook with a great appetite for hearty food. I have witnessed the creation of favorite recipes in friends’ kitchens and have learned from the best—my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law. Recipes may be included. I am remaining uncommitted on this because when I cook, I seldom measure. If you try any of my recipes, you are cooking at your own risk. Grab a glass of wine. Hope you’re hungry!
A Is For Artichoke
Specifically, stuffed and baked artichokes. My grandma served the artichokes at the grown-up table after a large dinner. This gave people a chance to nibble on something and sip the last of the wine while the table was cleared. The artichoke course was the intermezzo, but not really. Artichokes are not meant for palate cleansing. Grandma’s artichokes were large deep green flowers swollen with crisped breadcrumbs.
By the time artichokes came out of the kitchen, we kids had finished our dinner at the kids’ table. We milled around the grown-up table looking to sit on a lap, tattle, or ask permission to play outside. Grandma shared her artichoke with the kids. She let us pull the outside leaves from the flower. We scraped our teeth on the leaf’s underside to eat the baked stuffing that was seasoned with garlic and Parmesan cheese. As the deflowering continued, the stub of the leaf became tender and added another layer to the artichoke experience. Soon a plate was piled with teeth-tracked leaves until, finally, the choke revealed itself. Its pale leaves with little spiked tips stood up. The breadcrumbs had not made it this deep into the flower. Grandma pulled the naked artichoke towards her. “You don’t like this part,” she’d say and ordered us kids to wash our hands. It was fine with us since the fun was over and, by this time, our attention was directed elsewhere.
I may have been in high school when I remained at the table to watch Grandma finish the artichoke. She easily pulled the choke from the base and scraped the fuzzy stuff with a spoon to get to the heart. The grey-green heart did not look appetizing. Grandma split it with her fingers and popped a piece into her mouth. “The best part,” she’d say. She was right. The heart was absolutely delicious. It was tender and tastier than the tough leaves and held more flavor than the jarred artichoke hearts.
Why go through the mess just to get to this small yet incredible part of the artichoke? I expected Grandma to say that we do not waste any part of the food we cook but instead she replied, “You have to work hard to get to the heart.”
Baked and Stuffed Artichokes
- Cut the stem off the artichoke and trim the pinchy tops.
- Put in enough water at the bottom of a pot so that the artichokes can steam. Steam for 15-20 minutes until an outside leaf can be pulled off without too much trouble.
- Run cold water over the artichokes.
- Mix seasoned bread crumbs, garlic powder and Parmesan or Romano cheese; whichever you prefer.
- Because I don’t like to clean up the mess artichoke deflowering entails, I cut each one in half, and cut out the choke as best I can. If you want to be authentic, don’t cut them in half.
- Spread the leaves out as much as you can. Use a spoon to stuff as much bread in between and into the center of the artichoke.
- Place the artichokes in a baking dish. Drizzle olive oil on top. Loosely place aluminum foil over the artichokes.
- Bake in a 350 the oven. After 15-20 minutes remove the foil. Bake until the tops are a little crisp. The outside leaves should easily come up off the base.
- Serve with a glass of wine and conversation.
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.