Carciofi Gratinati: Baked Artichokes

Baked ArtichokesArtichokes, lemons, capers and mint are ingredients found all over Sicily. Sicilian artichokes, often called spinelli (spiny), are small with spiny points. Capers are found growing wild in Sicily. But the best capers in Sicily and perhaps the world are found on the tiny island of Pantelleria. Pantelleria is 62 miles southwest of Sicily and just 43 miles east of the Tunisian coast. Capers and mint are another traditional Sicilian flavor combination.

Baked Artichokes

Recipe for 6.

Ingredients and equipment:

  • 10 small artichokes (baby artichokes if you can find them)

  • 1 lemon

  • ¾ cup olive oil

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • ¼ cup of black un-pitted Sicilian olives (see below how to un-pit)

  • ¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained

  • 6 tablespoons finely chopped mint

  • 3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs

Note: The olives and the capers will add a lot of salt to this dish. Be careful not to add too much additional salt to taste.

Note: Pitting an olive is easy. On a cutting board, use a chef’s knife and roll the olive between the knife and cutting board and press down. This will release the pit.

Note: An alternative to the lemon-water bath described below is to rub the exposed surfaces of the artichokes with lemon. This will avoid the water spattering in the oil but is more labor intensive.

Directions:

Fill a large bowl with water and add the juice of the lemon to the bowl. This bowl will be used to hold the artichokes after you clear each one to minimize their oxidization (discoloration and turning brown).

Clean each artichoke as follows:

  • Break off the green outer leaves until you reach the yellow soft layer of the artichoke

  • Using a pairing knife, trim the thick green skin from the bottom and stem of the artichoke

  • Using a bread knife, cut the top 1/3rd of the artichoke off

  • Slice the artichoke in ½ or in ¼ depending on the size

  • If not using baby artichokes, use a pairing knife, grapefruit knife or lemon baller to remove the choke

  • Plunge into the lemon water bath

Heat the olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the whole garlic cloves, sauté until browned. Remove and discard.

Remove the artichokes from the lemon water. Pat dry with a paper towel as best you can and add to the heated oil olive. The olive will spatter when the water hits it so be careful. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the artichokes are tender. Be careful not to over brown the artichokes. Lower the heat if needed.

De-pit the olives and roughly chop and add to the artichokes. Add the capers and the mint and combine the ingredients well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Place in a lightly oiled baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs over it.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Serve either hot or at room temperature.

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