- Food and Cooking
Stuffed Artichokes with Fresh Green Peas, a Healthy Mediterranean Style Dinner
A light and healthy spring dish
A tasty, meatless meal that's bound to impress your guests
I had never tried this recipe until I moved to Dalmatia, but now I'm hooked.
In the United States, artichokes are huge - about the size of a grapefruit. My mom is French - and in congruence with her culture, we used to boil them in salted water and garlic. We'd sit around the table, each person has their own giant artichoke garnished with melted butter or yogurt - yum yum! Each of us threw the discarded leaves in the pot stationed in the middle of the table. Kind of like King Henry the 8th with the chicken bones chucked behind his head - but I digress...
Here, artichokes are much smaller. Remember, we don't use a lot of sprays and super grow fertilizers so many fruits and vegetables are smaller and more potent. The size of a fist is a "biggie". The procedure here is to prepare them stuffed, then boil them slowly and thoroughly before adding green peas, or larger legumes called bež "beežh" which are a cross between a pea and a lima bean.
The Zen of Artichokes
Artichokes are seasonal. In the months of April-May, you can find them in the outdoor markets. Maybe, if you are lucky enough to have a neighbor who has artichoke plants, you can get him or her to sell you a bagful of them. Unlike living abroad, food here is very seasonal. My recommendation is to cook them and eat them now - because the next season won't come around for a long, long time. Carpe diem! As I once heard from a life coach: "Start before you're ready!". It is actually the earth version of the lotus, so imagine that you are entering the world of the enlightened. Read on, grasshopper:
Although this photo does not do justice, it gives you an idea of what they look like when they are done. The color you are shooting for is a light khaki greenish brown, green or brown is not it - the midpoint.
Here they are at the end of their cooking cycle. Be sure to keep them halfway uncovered so they don't turn completely brown, which comes from oxidation. Covering halfway is a good compromise, you save energy and lessen cooking time.
The Authentic Recipe
Using home made breadcrumbs (see my link, Practical Uses for Day Old Bread) you will need to combine the following ingredients:
- Fresh artichokes (a potful!)
- Finely chopped fresh garlic, about 5 cloves for 10 artichokes,
- Minced parsley,
- Finely rolled breadcrumbs (think - rolling pin) about 1-1/2 cups,
- 1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash (or here, we use Vegeta, a cultural favorite)
- 1 teaspoon of salt.
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste,
- a glass of dry white wine,
- about 1/4 cup of olive oil,
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tablespoon of sweet paprika (red powder - not the fiery one).
- 1/2 tsp white pepper or regular ground pepper will also do.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the olive oil with the breadcrumbs, finely ground to powder. I chop the garlic once coarsely, and then a second time with the parsley layered on top. If you can imagine the see-saw method of chopping, it is the easiest and gets the best results (tiny, fragrant parsley and garlic combined together). In the end, you will add the salt and Mrs. Dash/Vegeta and the pepper.
The artichokes need to be soaked in two or three fresh tubs of water. (The water can later be used to water plants, as the Croats do - water = life.)
Carefully clean the stems of tiny leaves, which are too tiny to eat. The top "choke" portion needs to be sawed off only at the peak which helps open the flower better to stuff it with the breadcrumb mixture. Be careful with the prickly ends.
Easter Eggs dyed with Onion Peels (organically)!
Preparation, Serving and Eating
Place the stuffed artichokes into a shallow pot and fill it to the halfway mark, so that the artichokes are half immersed in water. Once the artichokes start cooking, lower the flame so that the cooking process will continue but that the artichokes won't boil.
I cover the pot, at least partially, and let them cook. After about twenty minutes it's time to shake the pot. Using pot holders, make a quarter turn, which prevents any fallen breadcrumbs from sticking to the bottom. It's OK to use a wooden spoon as well, just don't break up the fragile artichokes because they are actually delicate flowers.
When the artichokes are becoming much softer, towards the end of cooking, it's time to add peas. Fresh frozen are usually a very good choice, unless you know a high quality canned version. If so, simply drain and add. Baby peas are delicious and a welcome addition to this dish.
Cooking time varies as to the size of the artichokes, but generally speaking, it will take between 45 minutes and an hour for them to cook through. Test by piercing the base of the artichoke with a fork. The artichokes should be tender but soft, and preferably not brownish. As mentioned above, a khaki green color and firm but soft texture is the combination we are looking for.
Serve them in a shallow plate with curved edges, because they are liquid based. Serve with French bread, i.e. baguettes. Men, in particular, enjoy eating them with day old french bread to better absorb the wonderful tasty juices that remain at the bottom of your plate.
If this is not enough food, deviled eggs make a good side dish, with a plate of red paprika strips. By all means, pour yourself a glass of wine or beer, and enjoy.
How to eat: It is considered cultural to eat them from the top half of your mouth. For example, the leaves are individually dragged across the upper teeth to get the "meat" of the artichoke, then tossed into a pot or plate in the center of the table. I also occasionally use the lower half of my mouth, but - just like enthusiastically licking your plate, try not to do this in a restaurant :)
© 2011 Anastasia Kingsley