Stuffed Artichokes Sicilian Style

("Carciofi Farciti alla Siciliana" - "Cacocciuli Chini")

 

For the holidays and for special dinners we always looked forward for the stuffed artichokes as a side dish or for the conclusion of an extraordinary meal. The ingredients for the stuffing are indigenous food and condiments. The breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, pine nuts, almonds, black olives, anchovies and olive oil combine into an outburst of flavors to compliment the sweetness and taste of the artichokes.

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 Artichokes trimmed for stuffing
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup of chopped parsley
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ¼ cup black olives, pitted and diced finely
  • 3 salted anchovies, (optional) rinsed, filleted and chopped
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • very little salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ lemon

 

Preparation of Artichokes

When preparing artichokes for cooking, wear utility gloves so you can avoid staining your hands. Prepare a basin with water, acidulated with the juice of a lemon, to soak the artichokes after they are trimmed, to prevent discoloration. 
Wash the artichokes to remove sand, small stone or any foreign object. 
Remove stem and discard hard outer leaves, the first 2 or 3 rows, until the artichoke’s leaves became light in color and usually tender. Trim base cutting enough of it so that the artichoke can stand up in the cooking pot. Cut off one-third of the petals eliminating the pointy top.

 

Preparation of the Stuffing

Step One
In a medium size skillet, over a medium heat, toast the almonds using a tablespoon of oil, and when the skin starts to pop, set on the side.
In the same skillet, lightly toast the pine nuts for 2 minutes and set on the side.  
Using the same skillet, lightly toast the breadcrumbs and place them in a large bowl. 
After cooling chop the toasted almonds and combine with garlic, cheese, parsley, pine nuts, olives, anchovies and pepper.
If using the optional anchovies do not add salt, taste filling and add salt if needed.
Combine all ingredients except the lemon and add pepper to taste. Mix it well and combine with it half of the olive oil.

 

Step Two
Bang the trimmed artichokes on the counter or cutting board to loosen the leaves, press them upside down and spread the petals apart so they can be stuffed.

 

Step Three
Hold each artichoke over the top of the bowl containing the stuffing, sprinkle between the petals, pressing inside the artichoke. Distribute equally any remaining filling to form a cover on top to crown each artichoke.

 

Cooking the Artichokes

Place the stuffed artichokes in a pot, close together; fill any empty space with a cup filled with water and/or use aluminum foil as filler. Cover artichokes half way with cold water and to prevent discoloration, add the lemon after squeezing a few drops of juice to the pot; also add a teaspoon of salt and pour the remaining olive oil on top of each artichoke.
Bring pot to a boil and simmer for 30/45 minutes. Check often and if needed add some water. Check if salt is needed and add.
Artichokes are done when pulling a leaf, it comes off easily. 
Spoon the top of each artichoke with some of the cooking liquid remaining in the pot. Serve hot or at room temperature.
If you want to give an extra zest, sauté a few cloves of sliced garlic and some parsley in three tablespoon of olive oil, drizzle over the artichokes before serving.