Sunday, May 8, 2011

Artichokes 1 Pot 2 Ways

1 stuffed and 1 smothered in garlic, butter, and EVOO
It's Mother's Day and while it breaks my heart that I can't spend it with the wonderful woman I get to call "mom," (writing from a Vancouver-bound plane!) I'm excited to write about a meal she still prepares with love for me and my sisters. She got us to love artichokes by stuffing them with deliciousness and steaming them in a big pot on the stove for hours with peas 
Can you tell which one this is?
and potatoes until everything was perfect (OK, to be honest, they never LOOKED perfect, but it was easy to forgive the sloppy presentation (no offense, mom!) when you couldn't wait start scraping the stuffing off of those artichoke leaves!).

My mom got her stuffed artichoke recipe from her mom. When you’re lucky enough to have an authentic Italian grandma, it’s hard to mess with her take on anything food-related, so her simple recipe is obviously a default for me. That said, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy artichokes and never wanting to limit my palate to the easy and familiar, I decided to try a recipe I found next to the artichokes at Whole Foods this time. I couldn’t just scrap the idea of the stuffed artichoke though – James had never even tried an artichoke before he met me – so I made one of each so we could enjoy artichokes two ways!

Simple Stuffing Recipe Below!
I made this dinner for Easter. Swamped with homework and studying for finals, I made the difficult decision to stay in Boston, missing Easter (not that I really celebrate it) with my family for the first time ever. My mom and step-dad were in town for a few days that week touring colleges with my step-sister, so at least I got to see them! As I helped my mom find gluten-free lasagna noodles for the dish she was making to bring to my Aunt’s, I was eyes-wide-open for a recipe idea so that we could at least have a special meal, if not a family filled egg hunt. The artichokes grabbed me as soon as I saw them. Combined with some roasted Brussels sprouts and blue potatoes, this was sure to be a perfect spring holiday vegetarian feast! 

Artichokes also gave me a great reason to experiment with my brand new pressure cooker! I've wanted one for a long time and used my state tax return to buy one (along with the canning kit and a cookbook) on Amazon after hours of careful research. If you're wondering why anyone would want a pressure cooker, they cut cooking time in half if not down to a third, are great for cooking dried beans when you don't plan ahead, and save lots of energy! The one I ended up getting will come in handy this summer as we head in to canning season! 

Because artichokes tend to brown, I prepared everything else first. I sliced 1/2 a yellow onion, scrubbed and halved about 1 lb blue potatoes (still enjoying the ones I planted this time last year!), and put them in the bottom of a steamer basket with about 1 cup of frozen peas

Then I mixed up some stuffing. I used Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (I will start baking my own bread and grinding my own bread crumbs this summer, I swear!). I mixed about a 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs with about a 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch, a few cloves of crushed garlic, a handful of Parmesan cheese, some fresh chopped parsley, freshly ground black pepper, and a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to moisten and hold everything together. I mixed it up with my hands and let the flavors get to know each other while I prepped the chokes....

To prepare the artichokes, I rinsed them under cold running water and then squeezed lemon juice over them to prevent browning and help tenderize them. Then I cut off the stems, peeled them with a pairing knife, and I trimmed off the prickly tops of the artichokes with my kitchen shears and separated the leaves. Don't be shy to force leaves open. Artichokes are strong. You won't hurt them! 

I stuffed one artichoke and rubbed the other one down with tons (about 5 cloves) of crushed garlic and extra virgin olive oil. I inserted a few small tabs of butter between the leaves, too. I put these in the steamer basket in the pressure cooker right on top of the artichoke stems, potatoes, onions, and peas and I added water to the bottom of the pot (until it hit the bottom of the basket). I added a few tabs of butter to the tops of the artichokes (Hey, it was a holiday dinner after all!) before putting the lid on.
NOTE: You don't need a pressure cooker for this recipe at all! It just cuts the cooking time in half. You can do the same exact thing, but you'll probably need to steam them for 40 - 60 minutes in a regular pot on the stove. 
Into the steamer basket on top of the Stems, Potatoes, Onions, and Peas
I locked the lid on the pressure cooker, turned the heat to hight and monitored the pressure indicator. When the pot came to pressure, I lowered the heat to medium and cooked them for about 10 minutes (that was the recommended time). They were good, but not cooked all the way, so I returned the pot to pressure and cooked them for another 10 minutes. I'd definitely recommend 20 minutes to anyone cooking artichokes in a pressure cooker! They came out delicious and while they were cooking, I whipped up a dipping sauce in the vitamix with some walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley and dill. 
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Blue Potatoes!
I served the artichokes with roasted Brussels sprouts and blue potatoes, which also came out delicious! I'd never roasted brussels sprouts and was never really a fan of them growing up, but I remember James commenting on how he liked them (which he later denied ever saying), so I decided to try roasting them. All I did was halve them and a few blue potatoes and toss them with some olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black petter, and crushed garlic. DELISH!

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