When I think of a stuffed artichoke, the first image that comes to mind is one that is stuffed with breadcrumbs flavored with oregano, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan cheese, like those served in restaurants in Little Italy in New York, and at New York’s annual Feast of San Gennaro. My mother made her own version without the cheese, and it was a real treat when she made them.
While artichoke hearts (often added to various recipes) are more common for the home cook and much easier to eat, I prefer to eat this savory vegetable in its whole state – picking each leaf off and eating them one by one. While they are messy to eat, require an extra bowl for the mounds of waste, offer just a bit of “meat’ on each petal and require a cleaning of the “hairy” choke before getting to the heart, which is the real “prize” in this vegetable, they are well worth all the work. Stuffing adds great flavor and more “meat” to each petal making it worth it even more. Besides flavor (and, yes, I also find them fun to eat), artichokes are also very nutritious, providing high amounts of potassium, antioxidants, and fiber.
As I look to have less gluten in my diet, I look for alternative, healthier ways to eat them rather than the breadcrumb stuffing that I have come to know and love. Sometimes I steam them in lemon juice, water and garlic and dip the leaves in a vinaigrette. But there is something about a stuffed artichoke that seems quite decadent and, well, exciting to eat. This recipe for vegetable stuffed artichokes, uses colorful diced vegetables to offer the right balance of taste and decadence and cooked in a lemony broth. The key to making the vegetable stuffing, is to dice the vegetables into small pieces about 1/8”. I use carrots, red bell pepper, string beans, zucchini, lima beans (frozen or canned is fine), but you can use any other vegetables that you like. This stuffing recipe will yield more than you need.
To prep the artichokes for stuffing, slice the top off using a serrated knife and cut off the bottom stem so that you have a flat bottom and the artichoke stands upright. Then cut each outer leaf with a scissor to remove the hard pointy tips. Then remove the center leaves and all the white pithy parts. If you can, scrape the choke out at this point, it’ll make eating a neater experience. If not, no worries, as it removes easy with a fork or spoon when eating them. Artichokes turn brown rather quickly once they have been cut into, so drizzle the cores with lemon juice as you’re finishing the prep for this dish.
I cook these vegetable stuffed artichokes on the stovetop. Once the artichokes are stuffed, place them in a pot on the stove and add the lemon juice, garlic, bay leaf and salt to the pot, then fill the pot with water about 1-1½ inches high – but no more than halfway up the artichokes Cover the pot and simmer the artichokes for about an hour, until they are tender. To test the doneness, pick a leaf off and eat it. If it is hard, then keep cooking. You may have to add a bit more water to the pot to add a bit more water to the pot if the liquid evaporates before the artichokes are done.
Vegetable Stuffed Artichokes
1 medium size zucchini – diced into 1/8” pieces
1/8 lb. string beans – cut into 1/8” pieces
½ red bell pepper – diced into 1/8” pieces
1 carrot – diced into 1/8” pieces
¾ cup lima beans (canned or frozen are fine), cut in half
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
½ cup of lemon juice plus extra for drizzling on artichokes
4 large garlic cloves smashed
1 bay leaf
Make stuffing by cutting the zucchini, string beans, pepper, carrot into 1/8” pieces and add to a bowl. Cut lima beans in half and add to bowl along with parsley and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix the stiffing mixture through.
Prepare artichokes by cutting the top off and the bottom stem, using a serrated knife, so that you have a flat bottom and the artichoke stands upright. Then cut each outer leaf with a scissor to remove the hard pointy tips. Then remove the center leaves and all the white pithy parts. Drizzle the core of the artichokes with lemon juice.
Stuff the vegetables into the core of the artichokes and stand them up in a pot (I use a Dutch oven). Add the lemon juice, garlic cloves, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt to the post and add enough water to cover about 1”-1 ½” of the artichokes but no more than halfway up the artichokes. Cover the pot and simmer the artichokes for about an hour, until they are tender. To test the doneness, pick a leaf off and eat it. If it is hard, then keep cooking. You may have to add a bit more water to the pot if the liquid evaporates before the artichokes are done.
Makes 4 artichokes.