Queen of Hearts
How artichokes became my family's favorite meal
We all know that in order to get children to try new foods, it helps to incorporate the young chefs into the cooking process. It’s a basic life skill, after all. But if you really need a nudge to get their hungry little hands into the kitchen, I suggest you disregard all formality and manners, and dive into the delicious mess of mastering… the artichoke.
At the market, have your little ones find globes that look dark green and feel firm and heavy. Without one fuss or eye roll, you will be engaging the aspects of simple math, following directions and sensory awareness. Kids thrive on feeling accomplished and successful, and following the steps in this recipe will not only build kitchen confidence, but will also make for meaningful memories along the way.
Artichokes are meant to be eaten with your fingers — and will not taste half as good if you come at them with a fork.
Traditionally, artichokes are on our table at least once a week during the height of their spring season, March to May, and definitely during their second wind in autumn. Around here, we look for any reason to use our garden garlic. My Aunt Marie’s recipe (here), calls for four cloves. Truth? We actually use eight! You decide.
4 artichokes, washed and dried
(approximately 2 lb.)
4 sprigs of green onion, chiffonade (use stems only)
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 3 lemons, divided (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flat Italian parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt, nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup
Romano cheese, finely grated
1. Cut off about 1 inch from the top of each artichoke, and enough off of the bottom to form a nice base for standing. Remove any especially tough leaves, and snip off the sharp tips of the leaves with scissors.
2. Carefully wiggle the leaves away from the middle of the artichoke - enough so that you can see down to the choke.
3. Use a spoon to reach down and gently scrape away any visible fuzz to reveal the heart. Drizzle about 1 tbsp. of the lemon juice inside and over each leaf.
4. Place the artichokes, stem-end up, in a steamer basket, cover, and steam until they’re almost as tender as you like them, about 20 minutes. Check for doneness by tugging at an outer leaf — it should come off easy-ish. You want them to be slightly underdone, as they will finish in the oven.
5. While the artichokes are steaming, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
6. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over low-medium heat. Let it simmer until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the green onion, shallots, and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Then, pour in about 1/3 cup of lemon juice and the wine. Stir and let this simmer on low heat for about 4 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs, parsley and nutmeg (about 1 tsp.). Stir to blend and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside to cool.
7. Place the artichokes, sitting on their bases, in a baking dish.
8. Use your hands to fill the center of each artichoke with the stuffing – fill it to the max! Then fill all of the spaces between the leaves as much as possible. Generously sprinkle the top of each choke with the Parmesan-Romano cheese blend.
9. Place the stuffed artichokes in the preheated 375-degree oven and bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese has melted, 15 to 20 minutes.
10. Serve cool on their own or with dipping sauce.