Do artichokes intimidate you? Just looking at those bundles of hard, spiked leaves is enough to send cooks running for cover. But dont run too far off with a little understanding and practice, you can be an artichoke wizard!Several varieties of artichokes are harvested throughout the year, but they are all prepared the same way. Choose individuals that are heavy for their size and look freshly picked. Dont worry if the green leaves are tinged with brown, these winter kissed artichokes have just been exposed to a little frost which does not affect quality.There are several ways to tackle an artichoke; here is the method I find the easiest. It may seem tricky at first, but after two or three, youll be a pro!If your artichoke has sharp leaf tips that bother you, just cut them off. Place artichoke on a cutting board and hold by the stem, leaf tips facing away from you. Slide a heavy chefs knife in the direction the leaves are pointing, slicing off tips. Now split artichoke into two identical halves cutting from stem to tip. Leave as halves for stuffing, or split into quarters for even easier choke removal.Locate the bristly choke in the center, and where it connects to the heart. With a paring knife, cut the thistles from the heart cutting from the second or third leaf on one side and guiding your knife tip down in a half circle motion. The idea is to separate the choke from the heart and cut through the first few layers of baby leaves surrounding the choke.If your cut is correct, you can simply pop out the choke with the first layer or two of leaves. If it resists, cut deeper and try again; take care, the thistles may get out of hand if so, simply rinse away. Immediately place into water with lemon juice to inhibit browning.Steam or boil in salted water with lemon and herbs until tender and leaves pull away with a little tug, about 20-30 minutes. Now fully cooked, your artichoke can be stuffed, grilled, marinated, or served with dipping sauce. To eat, remove leaves one by one and scrape the meat from the inside of the leaves with your teeth when all the leaves are gone, dig into that tasty artichoke heart!Artichokes really are simple to prepare, and the best way to learn is experience. Dont worry if you mangle a few, theyll still taste fine. Its time to end intimidation understand artichokes and youll learn to unlock their wonder! Buon Appetito Salte! Chef Mick Rosacci Chef Michael Angelo (Mick) Rosacci and family own and operate Tonys Meats & Specialty Foods and Tony Rosaccis Fine Catering in Littleton and Centennial. More recipes at http://www.TonysMarket.com.Artichoke PerfectionThis is the easiest, and some think the most perfect way, to serve an artichoke.Allow at least one half artichoke per person. Prepare artichokes for cooking remove leaf tips if desired, half or quarter and remove choke. Immediately place in a pot of boiling salted water with a generous squeeze of lemon fresh rosemary or other herbs can also be added. Boil until tender, about 25 minutes.Drain artichokes and immediately place on individual plates. Place one pat of sweet butter into each quarter or half, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and serve (fresh lemon zest and herbs is also quite nice). The center can also be filled with stuffing, aioli, herb butter, olive oil, balsamico, or salad dressing.Grilled ArtichokesPrepare artichoke as in Artichoke Perfection recipe, taking care not to overcook. Drain artichokes and cool cover with plastic until time to grill.Drizzle or mist artichoke with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until nicely grill-marked and heated through. Serve with more olive oil, herb butter, balsamico, or your favorite dip.Italian StuffedArtichokesDelizia di Carciofi Ripieni4 prepared artichokes, warmjuice of one lemon2 links sweet Italian sausage1⁄3 cup olive oil1 tsp. minced garlic2 cups day old Italian bread, cubed 1⁄4 inch2-3 TBS Pignoli (pine nuts)salt and pepper2-3 TBS grated Parmigiano-ReggianoRemove sausage from casing and brown, set aside. Heat olive oil and garlic in skillet until garlic begins to sizzle. Add crumbs, pignoli and cook; stirring, until bread is golden, about 5 minutes. Add back sausage.Coat a baking dish with olive oil and add artichokes. Lightly spoon stuffing into centers, distributing ingredients evenly. Sprinkle tops with cheese. Add a little water to baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese browns, about five minutes.Serve warm or at room temperature.Artichokes, Avocados and Peppers2 large avocadoes, cubed1⁄4 cup roasted red peppers, dicedRussian, Catalina or French dressing to taste4 prepared artichokesGently mix avocados and roasted pepper (a combination of red and yellow peppers looks stunning in this recipe) with prepared Russian, Catalina or French dressing to taste. Stuff into prepared chilled artichoke and serve at room temperature.Shrimp Stuffed Artichokes 4 large artichokes, washed and trimmed1 lb. Rock or Gulf shrimp1 TBS butter2 TBS chopped parsley 1 tsp. chopped fresh dill or tarragon 1 TBS, or more, lemon juice 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise2 TBS olive oil salt and pepper to tasteSplit, choke and boil artichokes, reserve at room temperature. Meanwhile, saut the shrimp in butter just until it changes color, about 1-2 minutes, transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Toss the shrimp with the parsley, herbs, and 1 TBS lemon juice. Blend the oil and mayonnaise together, add to the shrimp mixture and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding additional lemon juice if necessary. Fill the artichokes with the mixture and serve. Can be done in advance and chilled.Garlic AioliThe classic artichoke dip.2-3 cloves fresh garlic2 eggspinch Kosher or sea salt1 cup extra virgin olive oilCombine the garlic and salt in the mortar and grind to a paste. Simmer the eggs in boiling water for 2 minutes and then separate the eggs and add the now pasteurized yolks and the garlic paste to a bowl, slowly adding the oil and whipping with a whisk. The finished product should look like mayonnaise. Can also be made in a food processor. Herb ButterGreat with artichokes and more!Blend 1 TBS each of chopped fresh rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley with one cup softened butter. Can be used immediately, or shape into a log, wrap in plastic, twisting ends like a candy wrapper and chill cutting off pats as needed. Great with artichokes, grilled rustic breads, veggies, or melted over a steak.
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