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This past week, Danny posted his virgin eggplant recipe (check it out: http://dannyskitchen.me/2012/05/23/an-eggplant-virgin/), so I decided that I should attempt to use an ingredient that has always intimidated me in the produce department….The Artichoke. I love using canned or marinated artichokes in a variety of recipes. They are great on salads, added into pasta dishes, roasted and topped with a variety of herbs, cheeses and breadcrumbs. But I had never been brave enough to attack an entire raw artichoke. So, inspired and armed with a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/nonnas-artichokes-recipe/index.html), I took to the kitchen to lose my artichoke virginity.
Step One: Prepare the artichokes
The first thing you need to do is removed the thorns from the artichokes. This can be done by simply cutting them with scissors. It takes a little bit of time, but just work your way around the artichoke, bottom to top. Then simply use a knife to remove the top of the artichoke where the thorns are all bunched up.
The second step is to remove the choke. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise. Cut out the choke by scoring with a knife around the prickly purple choke and then scooping it out with a spoon. Trim off the outer layer of the stem. Rub the cut sides of the artichokes with the lemon to slow down the browning due to oxidation.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the artichokes and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove the artichokes from the water and allow to drain.
Step Two: Stuff the artichokes
While the artichokes are boiling, prepare the stuffing for the artichokes. Chop about a cup of mixed olives. Add in 2 tablespoons of drained capers. Season with pepper. Taste to determine if more salt is needed, but between the capers and olives, there may be enough salt already there. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. This will be the topping for the stuffed chokes.
Warm some extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic slices. Allow to cook for a couple minutes so that the garlic infuses into the oil. Remove the garlic and discard. Place the artichokes in the oil, cut side down, and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly browned. Flip over and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stuff with the olive mixture. Top with the breadcrumb and cheese topping. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Broil the artichokes for 2-3 minutes, just until browned. We served them with an arugala salad with some radicchio, dried cranberries, Yukon gold potato and feta cheese, with a lemon vinaigrette dressing. Now that my virgin artichoke experience is complete, I am already looking forward to what other recipes I can create with the new ingredient. While it is a bit intimidating, with its thorns and armor looking exterior, once you have it prepared, it makes a delicious ingredient to work with.