As I steam artichoke for an appetizers, I thought of my mom who would buy as many as she can everyday throughout the artichoke season so she can clean them and freeze them to be used in the off season.
My mother served artichokes stuffed with meat; served it mixed with herbs and served it as an appetizers with olives.
Food historian maintains that the Artichoke originated in North Africa probably Tunisia, and from there moved to Syria, where the Crusaders picked it up and spread it through Europe, including Italy. Other food historians claim that, because artichokes still grow wild in Sicily, moved from Sicily to Naples and throughout Italy, it definitely originated in Italy. These same historians say that the Crusaders took artichokes to Syria, and not the opposite direction.
Whatever the case maybe, they are a very popular vegetables around the Mediterranean, and used in a different way in each of the countries. My favorite is the marinated artichoke one finds in restaurants in Rome. The are cooked, then left to soak in olive oil, lemon and garlic. They are so tender that one eats every part of the artichoke, stems, leaves, and the choke. I dream about Roman artichokes. The Medicis in ancient Italy believed artichokes contained and aphrodisiac, but the men would eat them as appetizers before every meal, but they forbade the women from touching them.
It is hard to find baby Roman artichoke in local supermarket. To cook large artichokes, peel the stems and cut the artichoke in half, horizontally. Remove the toughest external leaves then boil in a heavy sauce pan, making sure the water covers the entire artichoke. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil to the water, four cloves of garlic, and slices of fresh lemon. Bring the water to a boil, cover it and let it simmer for 30 minutes. You can then eat the stem and the edible leaves with your favorite sauce.
Artichoke Bottoms Stuffed with Herbs
1 lemon, sliced
2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
8 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of one lemon
salt to taste
-Stem the artichokes close to the base.
-Scoop out the choke and trim the base to form a cup.
-In a heavy pot, bring water, lemon slices and salt to a boil. Drop the artichoke into the boiling water and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.
-Drain and set aside.
-Mix the pepeprs with the scallion, oregano, thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss well.
-Place the artichoke cups on a shallow plate and stuff them with the herb mixture. YOU CAN SPRINKLE FETA CHEESE CRUMBLE ON TOP.