Serves: Makes 4 servings
- 3 tablespoons dried currants
- ½ cup hot water
- 2 lemons
- 4 large artichokes
- 4 cups plain focaccia crumbs, from about ½ pound day-old focaccia
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 large plum (Roma type) tomato, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- Scant 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Procedures:With their leaves spread to embrace the filling, these hefty artichokes resemble pompom chrysanthemums — a reminder that they are in fact flower buds. Stuffed with garlicky focaccia crumbs, a single one makes a satisfying lunch.
Put the currants in a small bowl, add the hot water, and let soften for 20 minutes. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the juice of 1 lemon. Cut the other lemon in half.
Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut off the stem flush with the base. Rub the base with a lemon half to prevent browning. With a serrated knife, slice off the top 1 inch of the artichoke; rub the exposed surface with lemon. With scissors, snip off the pointed tips of the remaining leaves. With your fingers, carefully pry open the center of the artichoke to reveal the pale, prickly inner leaves and fuzzy choke, taking care not to break any leaves. Pull out the innermost prickly leaves, then use a small spoon or melon baller to scrape the hairy choke from the artichoke bottom. Squeeze some lemon juice into the cavity, and drop the trimmed artichoke into the lemon water. If necessary, invert a plate over the artichoke to keep it submerged. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.
In a large bowl, combine the focaccia crumbs, cheese, parsley, and dried oregano, crumbling the dried herb between your fingers. Add the tomato, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, currants, salt, and several grinds of pepper. Mix well with our hands. Measure the volume of the filling so that you can put one-quarter of the volume in each artichoke.
Remove the artichokes from the lemon water and invert on paper towels briefly to drain excess water. With your fingers, fill the center cavities with some of the stuffing, then tuck more stuffing between the leaves. The inner leaves are too close together to separate without breaking them, but pack stuffing between leaves where you can.
Set a rack inside a deep baking dish large enough to hold the artichokes. Stand the artichokes upright on the rack, then add boiling water to a depth of ½ inch to the dish. Cover the artichokes with a sheet of parchment paper, then cover the baking dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake until you can pull a leaf out easily, 1 to 1¼ hours. Taste the leaf and make sure the base is tender. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. The artichokes are best when warm, not hot.