food. family. life.

carciofini al forno (baked baby artichokes)

{food confession.}

I am an artichoke (carciofi) addict.

I can eat them everyday, all day especially when they are in season in the spring months.

The best way to enjoy these lovely vegetables is when they are fresh and beautiful from your local store or farmer’s market.

I enjoy the large globe and baby artichokes the way Mammina Loreta has prepared them for years for our famiglia.

She cleans them and stuffs them with a vegetable and breading mixture then cooks them in a braise or stewing method which creates not only the most fabulously tender leaves and heart, a stuffing that is flavorful along with a braising liquid stock that tastes like artichoke heaven.

We eat these for dinner along with light sides and any or all leftover braising liquid is stored carefully for use in risottos, pasta dishes, soups, etc.cucinadimammina_carciofini al forno_2

I cook with baby artichokes which can be stuffed in this same style or simply cleaned and quartered for a wonderful sauteed version that I eat as a side dish.

I mix them in with pasta or risotto dishes or my personal favorite, baked in the oven with a wonderful crunchy breading.

In Italia, they honor the artichoke with festivals and gatherings where they are grilled, steamed, baked stuffed and fried into a combination of the most delicious flavorful dishes on earth.

I love the traditional fried baby artichokes but I can no longer manage fried food too often so this dish is my healthier alternative.

I researched some options for frozen baby artichokes to get me through the fall and winter months and I found a couple of varieties that work very well with this recipe.

When using fresh artichokes they must be cleaned, trimmed well, choke removed and parboiled to tender before using for this dish. The nice thing about the frozen variety is all this has been done for you and it’s easier to make this during the week and more often.

The first is Birds Eye artichoke “hearts” which are easily found at most grocery stores. This brand is pretty flavorful and the artichokes are cleaned and trimmed up well.

The name is a bit deceiving as the heart of the artichoke is the bottom only; these are really baby artichokes quartered with hearts and inner leaves.

My new favorite brand is from Trader Joes (their own label) and I find them to be even more flavorful and the cost is better for the amount you get per bag.

Note: Do not use canned artichokes for this dish, they are too soft and too salty and the flavor is lost in the baking. I keep a few cans on hand to add to salads or antipasto only. Rinse and drain them well as the salt is too much for most to bear.

This dish is one I put together often, we love to eat them as an appetizer, tapas style. I serve them as a side for grilled or roasted meats and chicken and even add them to my salads for a special crunch and flavor.

INGREDIENTS

{homemade breadcrumbs}

1 to 2 loaves stale, day old thick crust rustic bread

1/4 to 1/2 cup grated romano cheese

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, ground

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 cup fresh chopped or dried parsley (add more if you prefer)

Cut the bread into large chunks and process in your food processor to a fine grind. Measure out 8 cups into a large bowl and add all the ingredients in the list above. Be sure to mix/blend this well (using the processor for this can help.)

Place the seasoned bread crumbs off to the side and store any extra plain bread crumbs for future use.

Note: Taste your seasoned crumbs to see what flavors are lost or too prominent; add more plain crumb to even out the saltiness; add more salt or cheese if the crumb is not salty enough.

cucinadimammina_carciofini al forno_3

{baked baby artichokes}

2 bags or boxes of frozen baby artichokes (quartered)

3 eggs

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

approx. 6 cups or so of my homemade seasoned bread crumbs

olive oil

large rectangular baking sheet

Note: You can purchase store variety bread crumbs if you prefer, Vigo is the brand I like but realize the sodium content is pretty high. You will need to carefully and lightly salt the artichokes or the results will be too salty to eat.)

Remove the frozen artichokes from the bags or boxes and place them in a large colander. Rinse with warm to cool water and set aside to drain well.

In a large deep bowl, add the two eggs and the milk and whisk until well blended; season lightly with salt and pepper.cucinadimammina_carciofini al forno_4

 

 

 

Place the breadcrumbs in a large ziploc bag and set aside.

Once the artichokes are drained well; season very lightly with salt and pepper and mix well.

Add the artichokes to the egg mixture and mix them gently to be sure they are all covered well with the egg coating. Let them sit for a minute or two. Using your hands, take a few artichokes from the egg mixture and put them into the breading bag and shake to coat well.

Place the coated artichokes on the baking sheet and continue in this fashion until all the artichokes are coated and on the baking sheet.

Drizzle the coated pieces liberally with olive oil to help the brown and to keep from sticking during the cooking process.cucinadimammina_carciofini al forno_5

 

Place the tray into a preheated 450 degree oven and let them bake for a good 15 to 18 minutes; check to see if the bottoms are browning.

Once the bottoms are nice and golden brown; change the heat to your broiler and let them bake for another few minutes until the tops are golden and crisp (please watch them carefully as they will burn!)

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a bit.

These taste best at room temperature and can be reheated in a toaster oven or oven to re-crisp them if any leftovers (this never happens at casa venditti.)

cucinadimammina_carciofini al forno_12

Note: Photography provided by Annette L. Venditti

Buon Appetito! 
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