Sunday, July 14, 2013

Artichokes Stuffed with Caponata

This dish is absolutely perfect for a warm summer evening, when you are feeling totally relaxed and have nothing other to do than linger over a great meal, enjoying the taste of each leaf as you slowly scrape it’s meat and caponata-stuffing off with your teeth. Artichokes are not a quick food to prep or eat, but that just ensures you will take the time to notice how fantastic these are.

This recipe calls for garlic confit, which is incredibly easy to make, and if you like garlic, is going to be your new crack. It tastes amazing in basically anything, but especially by itself on some good bread. Plus the oil preserves the garlic so you can make a big batch to pull from for weeks. All you need to do is place your peeled cloves in a small pot, cover them with oil, and bring the oil to a very low simmer. Small bubbles should rise to the surface slowly, you don’t want to deep fry the garlic. Maintain the low simmer until a knife or tester slides easily in and out of the cloves. Cool the garlic in its oil, and voila!

Makes: about 4 servings
Time: 35 minutes

4 mini artichokes (You can use 2 large ones as well and it should work out the same)

1 medium/small eggplant
3 lipstick peppers
2 gypsy peppers
1 sprig rosemary
6 sprigs thyme
salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and olive oil as needed
10 cloves garlic confit
2 Tbsp. garlic confit oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Basil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh Oregano
1 tsp. lemon juice

¼ cup parmesan cheese


Pre-heat your oven to 425 F. Next, fill a large pot half-way with water, and bring it to a boil.

Now for veggie prep. First clean your artichokes- cut off the top ¼ inch and the very end of the stem as well. Peel off any small extra leaves on the base, and clip off each of the large leaf tips with scissors. (Try not to stab yourself!) When finished, wash your hands because they are covered in bitter artichoke dust- trust me, I lick my fingers enough to know.

Next clean your peppers- cut off the stems, cut them each in half lengthwise, and remove the pith and seeds.

Finally, dice your eggplant into ½ inch cubes, and discard the stem and leaves.

Toss your eggplant and peppers with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet with the rosemary and thyme. Roast until very soft, and caramelized on the outside. It takes about 15 minutes in my oven (which is about a hundred years old, only heats from the bottom, and always runs hot.)

Right after you place the veggies in the oven, or at the same time if you have four hands, place the artichokes in a steamer basket in the large pot of boiling water. Steam for about 15 minutes, or until the leaves pull easily away. Then run under cold water to stop from over-cooking.

When the veg is finished roasting, let cool a bit, then toss in a bowl with the rest of your herbs, the garlic confit, the garlic confit oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. In order to make this capanta stuffable, you’re going to need to blend it with the immersion blender, or pulse it in a food processor until it is a somewhat chunky dip. While this isn’t exactly traditional, it is absolutely delicious and tastes just as great on bread or other vegetables as it does stuffed in artichokes.

Now to stuff those chokes. Holding the stem, turn each choke upside down and push the cut side down with force onto the cutting board. This will push out the leaves and make space for stuffing. Using a small butter knife, swipe the stuffing in between each layer of leaves, making sure to make your way all the way around. Caponata will probably ooze up and out but thats okay, this will hold the parmesan cheese in place that you’re now sprinkling on the top of the chokes.

Finally, place the chokes back in the oven, upright if possible. You can also throw them on the barbecue if you happen to also be grilling up steaks (you should be). Heat for a good ten minutes to make sure they are hot, and that the cheese has melted and crisped up. Now go, eat, drink, and be merry.

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