Artichokes are making a timid entrance already with greengrocers (Winter has been totally absent this year in Lebanon); artichoke bottoms are available frozen (at all Middle-Eastern grocers in the US imported from Egypt) or in jars in mainstream supermarkets; however, the taste of fresh artichokes is way superior, and the leaves make a fun appetizer dipped in an olive oil and lemon dressing. Once boiled in water, the artichokes leaves are dipped in dressing and sucked dry and the bottoms cleaned-up for stuffing.
INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings
- 1 bag of frozen artichoke bottoms or fresh artichokes, about 12 large ones
- 1 cup oil (can be olive oil)
- 1/2 cup almond slices or pine nuts, fried in oil till golden, drained and set aside on paper towels, to use as garnish
- Stuffing: 1/2 pound ground meat
- 1 large onion, chopped
- salt, black pepper or seven-spice seasoning, to taste
- 2 small lemons, juiced (can replace with vinegar or verjuice)
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of water
Fresh artichokes sold in Lebanon often have their offspring attached.
1. If using fresh artichokes, place in a pot with lots of water and a squirt of lemon juice; boil for 40 minutes or so until tender; if using frozen bottoms, do the same but for only 5 minutes (read package instructions). Drain the artichokes well keeping 2 cups of the water; pluck the leaves and set aside for a fun snack; remove the fuzzy filling from the bottoms with a spoon. Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the bottoms for a few minutes until golden; drain again on paper towels and place the bottoms in an ovenproof dish.
2. Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large skillet and fry the onions till softened and golden; add the meat and spices and brown. Scoop out the stuffing with a spoon (or a cookie dough scooper) and place on each artichoke bottom. Add 2 cups of the artichoke water to the skillet (in which the meat and onions were fried) and bring to a simmer; add the cornstarch previously dissolved in a bit of tap water; stir until the sauce thickens a bit, and add to it a squirt of lemon; taste and adjust seasoning and pour the sauce all around and over the stuffed artichoke bottoms. Insert the dish in a 325F oven prior to serving by 20 minutes or so and serve warm with rice on the side if desired.
NOTE: Feel free to add mixed frozen veggies to this stuffing, which would add color and taste. Diced carrots or peppers would work as well. Use the fried nuts as a garnish.
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