This is a dish I savor while in Sicily. Within days of my arrival, I can always be found sitting jet-lagged at the dining room table throwing back a bowl of this regional, homegrown dish. It is at that moment, that I know I have finally arrived in my beloved Sicily.
My mother-in-law is a master when it comes to making the artichoke, a rough leafed, thorny vegetable, submit to her will. Her family hails from the largest artichoke producing region in Sicily. Her husband was none other than an artichoke farmer. She can roast, pit-smoke or stew an artichoke into sublime tenderness. With this dish, her addition of mint and breadcrumbs make it a harvest combination perfect for the freshness of spring while also being substantive and satisfying. Buon Appetito!
4 large artichokes
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbs of Sicilian extra virgin olive oil
6-8 fresh sage leaves
6-7 fresh mint leaves
1 large yellow or white onion
1 cup water
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 pound fresh peas, shelled or 1 cup frozen
fresh ground pepper
finely chopped Italian parsley (to garnish)
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil (drizzling)
Simple Artichoke Prep
Slice the upper two thirds of the leaves off the artichokes; then break off the remaining leaves, snapping them off at the base. Starting with outmost leaves first, grasp a leave by the top and pull down. Continue until all the leaves are done. Trim off the dark green stubs, going around the artichoke with a paring knife. Cut them into quarters, remove the fuzzy choke, and slice each quarter into pieces between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. As you work, rub the cut surfaces with lemon and put them in a bowl with the lemon juice and water cover.
Gently warm the olive oil with sage leaves. When it is fairly hot, but not sizzling, add the onions and sliced artichokes. Salt lightly and stir to coat them with oil; then add the water and cook over-medium flame. As the water cooks off, you add a bit more, until the artichokes are cooked, about 25 minutes.
Add breadcrumbs and stir in the peas, gently. Continue cooking until peas are done and liquids are reduced, partially covered. About 15 minutes. A stewy texture is desired. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley and olive oil when ready to serve. For extra freshness, squeeze in a little lemon juice to taste.
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