Looking ahead to warmer weather

Spring is finally here … bring on the warmer weather! Warm balmy nights are ahead, outdoor dining and trendy new cocktails are awaiting us!

We can begin to enjoy all of the wonderful produce popping up and we are thinking about artichokes. Even though they are available year round now, they are still best in March through May. Artichokes are delicate in storage. Two weeks is stretching it and after that time, they lose their best flavor. Any darkening at the tips of the artichoke is an indicator of a less than fresh artichoke, so look for a bright green color and a very firm stem.                      

Joy’s father-in-law, we call him  “Big Fred,” always made the most wonderful, tender, stuffed artichokes. The stuffing, sinfully rich with oil and parmesan and pungent with garlicky crumbs and fragrant herbs, is to die for. A splash of wine in the pan steams and softens the artichoke fibers while infusing a delicate bouquet right at the tender heart.

A Prosecco is always chilling or there is a full-bodied red wine for us to enjoy along with this perfect starter to any meal. So get out the patio furniture, light a few candles and let’s enjoy the outdoors just as soon as we can!

Preparing the artichoke is pretty easy so don’t shy away; it is worth the time and effort. Enjoy!

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Big Fred’s

Sinfully Stuffed

Artichokes

Easy to prepare and full of favor. It is artichoke heaven!                          

4 large artichokes

1-2  lemons, cut in half

4 pats of butter

2-1/4 cups seasoned or plain bread crumbs

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese*

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

8 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1/2 cup dry white wine

Use a heavy, sharp knife to cut top 1-1/2 inches off each artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully) to scoop out choke. Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub a lemon half over the cut parts of artichoke. Repeat with remaining artichokes. Place into a deep pan large enough to hold four artichokes (like your large sauce pot). Squeeze remaining lemon juice over top of artichokes and put a pat of butter into each.                         

To prepare stuffing, in a large bowl combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley and garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss and taste crumbs. Re-season if necessary.

Holding artichokes over stuffing bowl, stuff choke cavity and in between the leaves with bread crumb mixture. Stand stuffed artichokes upright in pan and generously drizzle olive oil over center of each artichoke. Add water to just about 1/4 way up the artichokes. At this point you can throw into the water more peeled cloves of garlic to deepen the flavor even more. Add wine, more salt and pepper to water.

Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to a medium simmer and cover pan. Cook artichokes 40-60 minutes, depending on size. They are done when a knife slides right through the heart. Be careful, the water can evaporate and the bottoms will burn., so keep checking. Add a bit more water  or wine if you need additional cooking time until the hearts are tender.

* Experiment using other cheeses your family enjoys.