Sicilian stuffed artichokes: Nonna Elvira's carciufili ca' muddica

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I love artichokes in every possible way, simply marinated, in a salad, cooked in charcoal, in risotti and other primi piatti, as a side dish, in batter and many other recipes. The one below is a traditional Sicilian recipes which turns them into a fantastic full vegetarian main course, "carciufili ca' muddica" (breadcrumbs stuffed artichokes). In Sicily you can find them with various names as "cacocciuli", "cacuoccili", "carciuofili", in Italian they are simply "carciofi". This is my grandmother Elvira's version.

Ingredients:

4 artichokes
100 gr grated caciocavallo ragusano cheese ( or parmesan cheese)
100 gr breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves
parsley
salt
pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Wash and drain the artichokes. Using a serrated knife, cut off the artichoke stems to create a flat bottom and pull off the tough outermost leaves
Holding the artichoke by the base, firmly bang the top on a hard surface; this will open it so it can be easily stuffed. Some people snip the pointed tips of the leaves, if you do that do not forget to rub cut parts with lemon halves.
In a medium bowl mix the bread crumbs, some finely chopped garlic and parsley, the grated cheese, 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper; mix well. Working with one artichoke at a time, sprinkle one-quarter of bread crumb mixture over the artichoke and work it in between leaves and drizzle some olive oil on them. Transfer stuffed artichoke to a pot or dip pan and add enough water to reach half way up artichokes and add 3 tablespoons oil. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, or until leaves pull out easily. This time, I also passed them for 10 minutes under the grill, just to add a little chrunciness to the outer layers of leaves.

Water or wine?

Believe it or not, the best part of eating an artichoke for me is the moment when I drink a glass of chilled still water afterwords. Water enhances the flavour of artichokes and gives it a second life in your palate bringing out all its special freshness. Moreover, it takes away the stress of pairing a wine to your dish as most experts claim there is nothing harder than choosing the right wine for an artichoke based dish. However, if you cannot do without wine, one of Etna's whites famous for their hints of minerals and undercurrent of flowers and herbs, is usually an excellent choice!

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