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Artichokes with mint pesto

Artichokes stuffed with mint and garlic pesto, steam-braised with olive oil until meltingly tender and silky.
Servings: 4

Ingredients

Mint & Garlic Pesto

  • 1 large bunch fresh mint leaves only
  • 5 cloves garlic peeled
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil more if needed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steam-Braised Artichokes

  • 4 artichokes trimmed but not halved (see guidelines here)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Make the pesto by blending all the ingredients except the artichokes (I used an immersion blender), adding more olive oil as necessary to make a glossy purée. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning as necessary. It should be strongly flavoured and a touch salty.
  • Try to loosen and spread the leaves of the artichokes out a little with a spoon to make some room for the pesto. Stuff about half of it between the leaves of all the artichokes as best you can. Reserve the other half.
  • Add the olive oil to a pan large enough to hold the artichokes flower-side down and start to heat gently over a medium-low heat. Add the artichokes and drizzle over about half of the reserved pesto (the rest will be used after they have cooked). Cover with tin foil and a lid and cook for about 30 minutes.
  • It is better if you don't peek during cooking time, but if you sense the pan is heating up too much, turn the heat to low - this will all depend on your cooker. You want the artichokes to cook very slowly and gently, without either the flowers or the pesto catching on the pan. The water evaporating from the artichokes will help avoid this, but the heat should be kept low after the pan has heated up and started to steam.
  • When the time is up, remove the lid and tin foil, avoiding the extremely hot steam that loves to shoot out. Check the artichokes are completely softened and tender by sliding a knife inside one and by trying an outer leaf.
  • Transfer the artichokes to a serving dish or individual plates and drizzle over the remaining pesto. Take care when moving the cooked artichokes as they are very, very soft - particularly the stem - and could come apart. Serve hot.

Notes

I spent a lot of time watching people prep artichokes during my time in Rome and not once did I see them remove the choke. It seems that if you cook them long enough, the choke thistles soften and become pretty much indistinguishable from the delicious flesh. Meaning less prep!