Artichokes were a staple during family holidays in my home when I was growing up. My mother would stuff them with bread crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, grated pecorino or grana padano, garlic, herbs and olive oil then steam them in a pan. She would also sometimes use sharp provolone for added piquancy. It was a little bit of heaven to slide one’s teeth across the softened artichoke leaves to scrape off the inner “meat.” It was a lot of paradise to finally get to the heart, remove the “hair” and savor the sweet, soft flesh. Fights were not uncommon.
For some reason, I never really picked up the habit of making them myself, but then between the recent inspirational “Artichoke Festival” by my friends Judy and Jeff at Aroma Cucina and finding these huge beauties at the Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center, I did. I pared the tips of the leaves of the artichokes, pulled them away from the center and stuffed them with a mixture of breadcrumbs similar to what my mother used. I didn’t have any provolone at hand, so I went with just the grana padano. Instead of cooking them in an ordinary covered frying pan as my mother did (they cooked for at least an hour), I cooked them in my Cuisinart Pressure Cooker for twenty minutes on high and let the pressure dissipate on its own. Other than needing a touch more salt they were perfectly cooked and brought back a flood of memories. How did I not make them for all these years?