These scrumptious artichokes are not difficult to prepare, and they look stunning. They resemble open flowers because some of the stuffing is pushed between the leaves and it keeps the petals apart. Since they are rather filling, I like to serve them just before a hearty soup rather than a regular main course. To test an artichokes freshness you should squeeze the top of the artichoke and listen for a squeaky sound. If it sounds dull, then it is past its prime.
4 medium to large artichokes
Вј cup pine nuts
6 slices white bread, or 4 slices white bread and 2 slices whole wheat bread
Вј cup minced fresh parsley
ВЅ teaspoon dried tarragon
Вј cup grated Parmesan cheese
ВЅ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
Вј cup olive oil
ВЅ cup dry white wine
ВЅ cup plain yogurt
ВЅ cup Mayonnaise
3 tablespoons lemon juice
ВЅ teaspoon mixed dried herbs (I like tarragon, basil, thyme, and oregano)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Bring a large (6-quart) pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile rinse the artichokes under cold running water, then cut off the stems so they can sit upright. With a sharp knife (preferably serrated) slice off 1ВЅ inches from the top of each artichoke. Rub the newly exposed area with the lemon half to prevent discoloration. With scissors trim ВЅ inch off the top of each leaf, and continue to rub each newly exposed area with the lemon. Drop the artichokes into the boiling water and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile make the stuffing. Preheat the oven to 375В°F. Toast the pine nuts in one layer in a shallow pan for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. Be careful not to burn them; they should be a pale golden color. Put them in a medium bowl and keep the oven on.
- Put some water in a large bowl and soak half of the bread slices for 10 seconds. Drain out the water then squeeze the bread in your hands to remove all of the remaining water. Add the squeezed bread to the pine nuts and crumble with your fingers. Repeat with the remaining bread.
- Stir in the parsley, tarragon, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Saut the minced garlic in the butter for 2 minutes do not let it brown and add to the stuffing mixture, tossing to mix.
- After the artichokes have cooked for 20 minutes, remove them from the pot and invert onto a paper towel until cool enough to handle. Gently make an opening in the center of each artichoke and pull out a few of the innermost leaves, then scoop out the choke the fuzzy, hairy center with a teaspoon until it is completely removed. Discard the choke and those innermost leaves.
- Divide the stuffing into 4 equal portions and stuff the center of each artichoke, and also push bits of stuffing between the leaves in a symmetrical fashion. May be prepared to this point up to 8 hours in advance, covered, and chilled.
- Place the stuffed artichokes in a medium-size baking dish or a pie plate and pour the oil over them. Pour the wine into the dish, then cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and baste the artichokes. Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, or until a leaf near the center pulls out easily when grasped with the fingertips.
- Meanwhile make the sauce. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. (You can cover and chill it.) Serve cool or at room temperature, but not cold.
- When the artichokes are done, let them sit for 10 minutes before serving; they will be easier to handle and more flavorful if not served piping hot. To eat the artichokes spoon some sauce onto the side of your plate. Pull a leaf out of the artichoke and dip the end that was attached into the sauce. Pull the artichoke leaf through your teeth and the tender meat will easily come off. When all of the leaves have been scraped in this manner you will be left with the artichoke bottom, the best part of this experience. Dip the bottom into the sauce and enjoy! Of course, don’t forget to eat the stuffing as you go along.