Getting to the heart of it all: stuffed artichoke bottoms
The natural bowl nestled within the tough leaves of the artichoke is the perfect versatile base for any savory filling. Vered Guttman offers up a few of her favorite recipes stuffed artichoke bottoms.
Artichokes will soon pop up in the farmers markets across the U.S., as well as around the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
But this time I would actually like to introduce you to a great ingredient that’s available year round - frozen artichoke bottoms. Unlike many other vegetables, the artichoke bottoms in their frozen version are actually good and their bowl-like shape makes them so versatile that they have become a staple in my kitchen.
Stuffed artichoke bottoms, usually prepared with with ground beef or lamb in a lemon sauce, are popular in Morocco, Egypt and other North African countries. Jewish communities that originated from those countries share similar recipes. Many Moroccan Jewish families serve stuffed artichoke bottoms for the Passover seder, and those used to be their first artichoke of the year.
Stuffed artichokes are also a popular dish in Italy. But the Italian stuffed artichokes are prepared by using the whole heart, including the stem and some of the outer leaves, not just the bottoms. The stuffing is usually light and includes bread crumbs, anchovies and parmesan. You could try using this stuffing with the bottoms a s well.
You can, if you wish, clean fresh artichokes and make the bottoms yourself this way, but this time consuming job is not worth it. The frozen product is a good option, and is much cheaper as well (about $4 for 10 medium size bottoms).
Frozen artichoke bottoms can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores or online.
You can also find canned artichoke bottoms at Whole Foods, which can be a reasonable substitute for recipes in which the artichokes are cooked.
Just think of the possibilities! Artichoke bottoms can be stuffed with almost any savory filling. You could blanch the artichoke bottoms first and then fill with fish salads or any grain salad. Alternatively, you could cook the artichoke bottoms with the stuffing inside as I did in the following recipes.
The first recipe, and my family’s favorite, is for artichoke bottoms stuffed with ground beef in tomato sauce. The sauce is made of the simplest ingredients: tomato paste and water with Moroccan-style paprika (which is basically ground dried sweet peppers in oil) and salt. This sauce is similar to the popular Moroccan hraime dish of fish steaks in tomato-paprika sauce.
If you wish to serve the stuffed artichoke bottoms for the seder, like the Moroccan Jews, you can replace the bread crumbs in the recipes with grated potato. And speaking of the seder - how about artichoke bottoms stuffed with gefilte fish? That may be going too far...
The second recipe is for artichoke bottoms stuffed with fish in white wine sauce and the third is a vegetarian option, stuffed with egg yolk and goat cheese. Hope you’ll enjoy them all.
Vered Guttman is a caterer and a food writer based in Washington DC. Growing up in Israel she took her first lessons in Jewish cooking sitting at the tables of her two grandmothers, one from Poland, the other from Iraq. In Modern Manna, Vered will share a mix of new Israeli trends and old Jewish traditions, sprinkled with a distinct Sephardic flavor. Follow Vered on Twitter @veredguttman