Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Artichoke Gratinata

My paternal Grandfather was born on the outskirts of Palermo, Sicily and made his way to Ellis Island when he was only three years old.  His family lived in New York for a while before being placed with relatives in Southern Wisconsin.  With the influence of his Sicilian parents, he was an excellent cook and could always be found in the kitchen whistling while he prepared a meal.  One of his specialties was stuffed artichokes - full of breadcrumbs, butter, Parmesan cheese and garlic - a true Sicilian delicacy, one that took time and care and if you were lucky, was personally delivered to you on special occasions.

Today, most of the world's artichokes come from Italy, France and Spain; while California provides almost 100% of the U.S. artichoke crop.  There are several different varieties of artichokes, but all have the same, wonderful health benefits.  Artichokes are full of Vitamin C, folate, dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium.  They can help "clean" your blood by detoxifying the liver and gallbladder.  They have been known to help with circulation and digestive health, and through the ages, Europeans and Egyptians believed that the artichoke enhanced sexual power and aided in conception.  So there you have it - many fun reasons to eat your artichokes.

Every bite of this Artichoke Gratinata tastes like the treasured leaf of a stuffed artichoke.  The recipe comes from one of my favorite Food Network chefs, Giada De Laurentiis, and will compliment a variety of main courses; or simply pair it with a mixed-green salad and bottle of wine.  Enjoy!

artichoke gratinata (food network photo)

 Artichoke Gratinata

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound frozen artichoke hearts, thawed  (Trader Joe's has the best)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons melted butter

1.)  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
2.)  Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat.
3.)  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the artichoke hearts, parsley, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook until the artichoke hearts are starting to brown at the edges, about 3 minutes.
4.)  Add the chicken broth and wine and simmer for 3 minutes.
5.)  Transfer the artichoke mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.
6.)  Melt the butter in the same skillet used to cook the artichokes.
7.)  In a small bowl mix the melted butter with the bread crumbs. Stir in the Parmesan and top the artichokes with the bread crumb mixture.  
8.) Bake until the top is golden, about 10 minutes.

"The Greatest Wealth is Health" - Roman Poet Virgil

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