Artichokes are the roses of fresh produce. Just as every rose has its thorn, so too does this relative of the thorny thistle. Half the population would never realize that if they only judged the lifeless, mushy canned variety. Globe Artichokes are what you would most commonly see in stores. Artichokes are at their prime in the spring, but the season does not always dictate my menu.
Fresh out of the grocery bag I was staring at a spiky, green globe with coarse, mostly inedible leaves that tightly enclosed a hairy “choke” just above the heart. How long this will take to get in my belly?! Minus the fuzz that must be scooped out, the heart and some inner leaves are edible. Even parts of the outer artichoke leaves are edible, but make sure you chomp down on the lower, fleshy part. Most of us stopped eating leaves after we finished teething. Now we have an outlet to satisfy this herbivore urge. Even adults have fun with their food.
In the store, pick artichokes with tightly closed leaves. Once they are slated to cook, then you want them to open up wide for stuffing. To soften the artichokes, you boil them. An artichoke may seem like a small vessel, but it packs a load of meaty stuffing and bubbles over with melted cheese. The stuffing is just the opener, though. The robust, meaty heart of the artichoke is the true show-stopper. After being boiled, the heart is tender but bold with flavor. Too soon did I devour the heart and leave myself with only the wreckage of teeth-scraped leaves. Alas…
¾ lb ground Italian Sausage
½ onion, finely diced
2 cups bread crumbs [can use toasted sliced bread cut into small cubes]
Dried Basil and Oregano, Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper
Milk – enough to make a ‘wet stuffing’
1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1. First, wash you artichoke in cold water. Make sure that you clean between the leaves. Dry with clean towel.
2. Cut off the top 1-2 inches of the artichoke where most of the leaves are tightest. Remove anything that can be easily removed.
3. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim off the thorns on the remaining leaves.
4. Place the artichokes in boiling water for about 30-40 min or until they have softened. Remove and let cool slightly.
5. Pull leaves apart as much as possible to remove hairy “choke” and the purple leaves covering the heart [remove enough leaves to make adequate room for stuffing].
6. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, cook the ground Italian sausage over medium high heat.
7. Remove sausage. Reserve about 2 T grease. Drain excess grease.
8. Add in diced onions, cook until translucent – about 5-7 min.
9. In a mixing bowl, combine the sausage, onions, bread crumbs, spices and milk to make the wet stuffing.
10. Cover top with cheese.
11. Bake at 350˚ for about 25-30 min, or until heated through and cheese has browned.