Baked this way, artichokes turn almost silky, while the stuffing browns to a nice crust. Try experimenting with this stuffing; chopped green olives are good, too.
2 tablespoons pine nuts
6 medium artichokes
1 garlic clove
1/4 baguette, crust trimmed and cubed (about 2 ounces)
2 ounces ham, cubed
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry white wine
1. Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until they are lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill a bowl with water and squeeze the lemon juice into it. Keep the squeezed-out lemon half.
3. Pull off the lower leaves and tough outer leaves from an artichoke; this will be about the first two rings. Using kitchen shears, trim the top half of the next several rings of leaves until you get to the tight central cone, where the leaves are pale green at least two thirds of the way up. Use a knife to cut off the dark green top third. Trim the stem of the artichoke with a paring knife, making a flat base. Rub all the cut surfaces with the lemon half.
4. Place the artichoke upside down on a work surface and press firmly. Turn the artichoke right side up and use your fingers to spread the leaves as much as possible without breaking them. Use a grapefruit spoon or other small spoon to remove the innermost purple-tipped leaves and then scrape the fuzzy choke from the base.
5. Place the cleaned artichoke in the bowl of lemon water and repeat with the remaining artichokes.
6. When all of the artichokes have been cleaned, mince the garlic by dropping it down the feed tube of a food processor while it's running. Stop the machine and add the bread cubes. Pulse 2 or 3 times to break these down. Add the ham and parsley and pulse until the bread and ham are in large crumbs, 4 or 5 times. Remove the blade and stir in the pine nuts, lemon zest and salt.
7. Drain the artichokes and arrange them in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Fill the central cavity of each artichoke with some of the stuffing mixture, mounding it over the top and working a bit of it between the leaves.
8. Pour the white wine into the bottom of the baking dish and add just enough water to come to a depth of about 3/4 inch. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the artichokes are tender enough that you can easily pull out one of the interior leaves (a knife will pierce the base easily as well), about 40 minutes.
9. Remove the baking dish from the oven and carefully pour the leftover liquid into a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil over high heat and reduce to a thin syrup. Pour the syrup over the cooked artichokes and set aside to cool to room temperature before serving.
From How to How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Copyright 2007 by Russ Parsons. All Rights Reserved
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