Available from late winter to early summer, artichokes are at their best and most affordable when most of the popular spring herbs are growing. Fresh herbs impart a superior flavor to this Vata- and Pitta-decreasing filling. If the artichokes were stuffed with Roasted and Spiced Barley (pages 182-183), then Kapha dieters could enjoy them as well. This dish adds sweet, sour, slightly pungent, cold, heavy, and oily properties to a meal. A pungent appetizer, such as a bowl of hot
soup, should precede the meal. And the more varied the bed of herbs and greens used in the salad garnish, the better this dish is for Pitta and Kapha.
Whether served as part of a main meal in springtime or alone as a light meal, complemented by various condiments, stuffed artichokes are impressive to behold. When individually presented, centered on a large plate, surrounded by torn lettuce, feathery dill and fennel, young purple basil leaves, and some colorful nasturtium and blue borage flowers, these beautiful artichokes can establish a fine cookâ€™s reputation forever.
4 large artichokes Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 bay leaves
3 to 4 whole allspice 1/2 tablespoons ghee
1/2 cup chopped sunflower or pumpkin seeds
3 cups soft bread crumbs 1 cup chopped parsley 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cups ricotta cheese or soft panir 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup tofu
1 tablespoon minced fresh French tarragon
1 tablespoon minced mixed fresh herbs: thyme, savory, sorrel, mint, or basil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed anise seeds 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons olive oil
Lettuce varieties, fennel, dill, tarragon, basil, orange, pineapple, or lemon mint, chive blossoms, edible jlowers (as a garnish)
1. To prepare the artichokes, bring 2 to 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Rinse the artichokes and trim the bottom stems even
with the bottom leaves. Working from the bottom up, use scissors to clip the sharp pointed leaf tips. Fit the artichokes into the pot of boiling water, add the lemon juice, the bay leaves, and the allspice.
2. Cover and simmer over moderate heat for 40 minutes. Remove the artichokes and drain them upside down on a rack. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid.
3. To make the filling, heat the ghee in a large pot over moderate heat. Stir in the seeds and fry until they are light brown, about 2 minutes. Add the bread crumbs, the parsley, and the salt. Toss well until mixed. Cover and set aside while preparing the cheese mixture.
4. In a large bowl mash the cheeses and tofu together. Using a mortar and pesde, crush the spices and herbs together in the olive oil. Form a thick paste (pesto). Mix the cheese and the pesto thoroughly together in a large bowl, and then combine with the bread crumbs.
5. To stuff the artichokes, set the cooked artichokes upright and carefully open each one until the center choke is exposed. Pull this out with your fingers or use the tip of a sharp knife to get started.
6. Place a large spoonful of filling in the center. Then slip some between all the leaves except the most outward ones. Divide the filling equally among the artichokes. When thoroughly stuffed, tie a cotton string around each one to hold the stuffing and leaves together. Pour
1 cup of the reserved liquid into a large pot. Lay a metal or bamboo steamer in the pot. Gently set the artichokes in the steamer so the sides touch. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. If the liquid evaporates before the time is up, add more. Remove the artichokes from the pot and set aside for 15 minutes before handling. Cut and remove the strings. Set each artichoke on a bed of lettuce and decorate with herbs and flowers. Serve warm.