I walked into the market the other day and right in front of my where these beautiful Artichokes. What did I think of??? My sister Jaclyn, and my maternal grandmother, Tina. You see my grandmother made the best artichokes. They were simple, flavorful, and tasted like spring. My sister, Jaclyn, has had an obsession with artichokes since she was young. She has always loved them so much that at the age of 6 she insisted in dressing like an Artichoke for Halloween. Picture this little kid in a green felt costume that she made with my parents. As we went door to door trick or treating people said “Are you a little sprout?” and she got more and more mad at each door responding – “Nnnoooo, I am an Artichoke!” So you can see why Artichokes make me think of both of them. I purchased some and could not wait to cook them this week. I wanted to make them just like my grandmother. She would stuff the leaves of the artichoke lightly with mint, onion, and Romano Cheese. I think I prefer artichokes prepared like this because these simple ingredients heighten the natural flavor of the artichoke and let it stand on its own. You taste the meatiness of the leaves with the brightness of these few ingredients and my taste buds dance on my tongue. The mint is not too strong and mellows nicely with the sweetness of the onions. The Romano Cheese melts and gives you a bite of perfect cheesy saltiness to contrast it all. I was making them for dinner and kept thinking of my grandmother (she passed about 25 years ago) I know she is so happy to know I am making them just like she did.
I was placing the finished artichokes on the table for dinner when I took the picture below and texted it to my sister. Her response was “OMG, they look amazing. Please make them when I come and visit.” Maybe my sister shares my crazy food obsessions? I definitely will make them for her. I only have one sister…I would do anything for her. We will toast my grandmother as we eat them. I cannot wait for her to visit now. The artichokes will be waiting.
Grandma Tina’s Artichokes (feed 3 – 4)
Artichokes (figure 1 per person), at least 3 - 4
Romano Cheese (about ¼ a pound), cut into small chunks
Fresh Mint Leaves (about 2 sprigs), torn into pieces
½ Onion, chopped into medium chunks
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground black Pepper
First, fill a large bowl with water and slice your lemon in half and juice it into your water placing your lemon into your water. With a sharp knife trim off the stem of your artichoke to give it an even bottom, and be sure to reserve the stem. Trim off about ½ inch off the top of your artichoke and pull off the rough (about 2) outer layers of leaves. You can trim the outside base of your artichoke as well if you feel it has too tough an outer skin still attached. Place your artichoke in your lemon water and continue with the other artichokes.
Next, take your reserved stems and trim off the bottom of them until it looks fresh and not woody. (The amount you trim back will vary. It depends on the artichoke and how long the stem was to begin with.) With a vegetable peeler, peel the stringy outer layer of your stems and place them in your lemon water when done.
Then; remove your artichokes from the lemon water shaking it dry. With your fingers spread apart the leaves of the artichoke and begin to stuff your cheese, mint, & onion into your leaves. Spacing them apart; and placing about one of each to a leaf. Do not over stuff, and it is okay to leave more than a few leaves empty.
After you are done stuffing your artichokes place two to three inches of fresh water into a pot large enough to hold your artichokes. You want your artichokes to be sitting in the water, but not downing in it. Place your prepared stems into the water (it is okay for them to almost be covered by it). Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top of your artichokes and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place your prepared pot over medium heat and cover. Bring to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes. You want to be sure the heart of your artichoke is tender when pierced with a knife to be sure they are done.
Finally, to serve; you will need to remove your artichokes with tongs to a serving platter. Place your stems along the side of your artichokes when serving. I always place an empty bowl on the table for the leaves you have eaten to be discarded in. I like to serve an artichoke on each plate along with a stem. Eat and Enjoy!