We love small plates of all different varieties of food at for our evening meal. Whether we are out at our favorite food spot sitting at the bar or at our casa with the famiglia, this lighter way of eating is adventurous and entertaining for the palate, one of favorite ways to share food.
You are free to choose what you wish the focus to be, fish-based or proteins meats and poultry with a few sides of vegetable small plates to compliment. Our favorite way to start is with a vegetable-based dish that opens us up to the plates to come.
We visited a local bistro that served a version of this and I was delighted with the combination of flavors. My version has the addition of quinoa and chopped tomato to balance and gives the dish a boost of protein.
goat cheese & quinoa-stuffed artichoke heart bottoms
4- 5 fresh large artichokes, cleaned and stripped of all leaves, heart bottoms cleaned and trimmed (save the raw leaves to steam & eat or use in a vegetable stock recipe)
fresh plain goat cheese (1 package to taste)
1/2 to 1 pkg. plain quinoa (cooked until tender in vegetable stock) cooled to room temperature
fresh italian flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
about a cup or so of chopped frozen, thawed& drained spinach
2 fresh rip plum tomatoes finely chopped
homemade vegetable stock
grated parmigiano cheese (for topping)
sea salt and black pepper
(i.e. you can add in other favorite items, like sauteed mushrooms, black olives, etc. all chopped finely and mixed in to the goat cheese base… have fun and enjoy!)
Once your artichoke heart bottoms are prepped and ready, drop them in a bowl of ice water with lemon to keep them from turning color.
In a medium sauce pan bring the vegetable stock to a boil, add the artichoke heart bottoms to the stock and cook on medium heat until cooked through (carefully test with a fork for doneness.) Remove from the stock and set aside to cool.
Using additional vegetable stock, cook your quinoa until tender and done (store leftover quinoa for serving as a side dish for other meals, etc.)
In a small bowl, add the cooked quinoa and chopped tomato and parsley leaf and chopped spinach and blend well. Add in the small package of goat cheese and begin to blend with your fork until mixed well. Add some cracked black pepper to taste and blend well.
Take the cooled artichoke bottoms, season lightly with sea salt and black pepper. Using a small spoon, add the got cheese filling to the bottoms and form evenly in a rounded shape.
Continue until all the bottoms are filled and set inside a oven baking dish right side up. Sprinkle a healthy amount of grated parmigiano cheese on the top of the filling for each one, this will create a savory crunchy crust.
Place in a preheated 350-375 degree oven on the middle rack. Bake for about 15 minutes or so depending on how fast your oven cooks, etc.
Check them and when you see the tops begin to brown lightly, turn to broil for 2 minutes or so until the tops are golden and crispy.
Remove from oven and serve immediately or allow to come to room temperature and serve, delicious both ways! Serve along with a crisp white wine and other small plates of your desire.
P.S. For extra crunch & flavor, top with a small amount of crumbled oven roasted bacon… wonderful indeed.