Stuffed Artichokes
Carciofi Imbottiti

serves: 6 Servings

The flavorings in this dish are zesty-a combination of the traditional and a few touches of my own. The anchovies add a lot of flavor, but if you don't like them, don't use them. Lemon zest lightens the flavor of this hearty dish a little. It may seem strange to chop the crushed red pepper-especially as they fly around the chopping board a bit while you're trying to do so-but it prevents you from biting down on a big flake of pepper in the stuffing. If you have vegetable stock or chicken stock, you may use it in place of the water called for in the recipe. It will surely add flavor.

ingredients
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 lemons
6 artichokes
1 cup coarse bread crumbs
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped fine
4 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 anchovy fillets, chopped fine
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper, chopped fine
salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

directions


Put the garlic and olive oil in a small bowl and let steep 30 minutes to 2 hours. If you plan to hold the infused garlic oil longer than a few hours, strain out the garlic and reserve the flavored oil.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grate 1 teaspoon of zest from one of the lemons and set the zest aside. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and pour about half the juice into a large bowl of cool water. Reserve the remaining lemon juice and two of the lemon halves. Prepare the artichokes for stuffing, plunging them and the peeled stems into acidulated water as you go.

Preparing the artichokes for stuffing: Gently pull and spread the leaves outward to expose the purple-tipped leaves at the center. Pull out the purple-tipped leaves to expose the fuzzy choke. With a small teaspoon or espresso spoon, scrape away the choke all the way down to the artichoke heart-the smooth, firm flesh below the choke. Be sure to scrape the choke from the entire surface of the artichoke heart. The artichoke is now ready for stuffing.

Mix the bread crumbs, eggs, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, mint, anchovies, Parmigiano-Reggiano, half the red pepper, the reserved lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl. (Garlic infused olive-oil will work wonderfully in here as well.) Taste and season with salt, if necessary. Mix well.

Remove the artichokes from the water and drain them for a few minutes on a kitchen towel, rapping them once or twice to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Gently spread leaves open from the center to make sure as much stuffing as possible ends up between the leaves. Dividing the stuffing evenly among the artichokes and using the palm of one hand, work the stuffing between the artichoke leaves and into the center where the choke was. You may not need all the stuffing to fill the artichokes. If you have any left over, you may use it as described below to make a thicker sauce.

Nestle the artichokes into a baking dish. Tuck the reserved stems in between the artichokes. Pour enough fresh water into the dish to cover the bottom third of the artichokes. Season water with salt, and add the remaining crushed red pepper, olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and lemon halves. Dot the tops of the artichokes with the butter. Cover the dish tightly with foil, poke the foil a few times with a fork and bake until the leaves are tender when pierced with a paring knife, 30-45 minutes.

Uncover the dish and bake until the top of the stuffing is browned and crusty and an outer leaf is easy to pluck from the artichoke, about 10 minutes. Serve hot in shallow soup plates, spooning some of the cooking liquid around each artichoke.