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Baked Artichokes with Gorgonzola

Normally I like my artichokes with mayo, a little salt and pepper, served with some warm pita bread. However, today I am talking about parts of the artichoke that don’t always make it to the dinner table.

The artichoke is best known for its “heart,” the base. The heart is used in dips and casseroles. The “choke” is the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud; you don’t want to eat the choke. I am not here to talk about the heart or the choke, though. I want to talk about the basal leaves of the artichoke; which studies show are effective for improving digestion and liver function as well as cholesterol levels. Boiling or steaming an artichoke softens the petals, and there is a meaty part of the petal, which is quite good. The idea here is to stuff the artichoke with a dip, sort of like an appetizer without the pita bread. Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’s recipe.

Salt
2 artichokes
3 lemons
1 cup mild Gorgonzola cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Trim the artichokes by cutting off the top 1-inch or so. Cut the stem close to the base of the artichoke so the artichoke can sit up straight, and remove some of the bottom leaves. Using kitchen shears, trim the sharp points off of any remaining outer leaves. Add the artichokes to the boiling water. Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice into the boiling water. Toss in the lemons. Cook the artichokes until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the artichokes and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the Gorgonzola, cream cheese, thyme, 2 teaspoons parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. In another small bowl stir together the bread crumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the center choke of the artichokes using a small spoon. Stuff the cheese mixture into the center of the artichokes. Place the artichokes into a baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the artichokes. Drizzle the tops of the artichokes with olive oil. Bake until the artichokes are heated through, the cheese is melted, and the bread crumbs are crisp and golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer the artichokes to a serving dish and serve.

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