When it comes to vegetables, I would have to say that artichokes are among my favorites. This weekend Ray and I were up on our soon to be homestead property and planted some artichokes. I think we found the perfect spot next to the retaining wall in the orchard where they will get morning and early afternoon sun, but will have shade for the late afternoon heat. We started with just a few plants for a couple of reasons, the first and most important being that we need more dirt in the area where the artichokes will reside. So we robbed Peter to pay Paul – or should I say we took dirt from one side of the artichoke bed and put on the other. That way we can go ahead and get a few plants into the ground now while we add soil to the other side. We can plant the rest of the artichokes next year when the area has enough soil to make it fairly level. Also, we didn’t plant in front of the big log retaining wall because we need to replace that log. Munching insects (termites and carpenter ants) are already making it break down. Does anyone know any way to organically control these wood eating pests?
Hopefully when this area of the orchard is completely level and filled in with dirt, we will have 24+ artichoke plants! Mmmmmmm………. chicken and artichoke pizza, ground turkey and artichoke heart stuffed shells, steamed artichokes dipped in olive oil…… my mouth is watering as I think of these.
So for those of you who have artichokes (and even those who don’t) and were wondering what new and yummy way to use them, I would like to share with you my favorite artichoke heart recipe. I developed it from several other recipes, adding a little of this and taking away a little of that, until I got it to where I think it is just right!
GROUND TURKEY AND ARTICHOKE HEART STUFFED SHELLS
4 cups of Arrabbiata Sauce. Make this first:
Brown 4 slices of bacon, which has been chopped or cut into small pieces. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add 4 cups of marinara sauce. You can use either jarred or fresh. Add 1-2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes – 1 teaspoon for milder sauce or 2 teaspoons for a bolder and spicy sauce. By the way; arrabbiato means angry in Italian—the name of the sauce is due to the heat of the chili peppers. Let the sauce cool down a bit while you continue on with the recipe.
Cook large pasta shells as package directs, until tender but still firm. Drain shells and let cool a bit.
While pasta is cooking, brown 1 pound of ground turkey in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic and 1/2 small yellow onion and cook, stirring, until garlic and onions are softened. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.
By now you should have your sauce made, your shells cooling and your ground turkey cooling.
Add 1 package (10 ounces) of artichoke hearts or one 15 ounce can of artichoke hearts (drained) to the ground turkey. If you use fresh artichoke hearts, steam or boil them first until they are fairly tender, then chop them into small bite sized pieces. Then add one 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. The addition of the cheese and eggs helps to cool down the mixture and it should be cool enough to handle at this point.
To assemble the whole dish, lightly spray with oil the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish and add about 1 cup of the arrabbiata sauce – spreading it around to just cover the bottom. Now, holding a shell in your hand, scoop up about 2 tablespoons of the filling with a spoon and stuff it into the shell. The filling should mound come just to the top of the shell. Place the shell into the dish, then repeat until all the shells are filled up and in the dish. You should get about 20-24 shells stuffed, depending on how much filling you put into each shell. Cover the top of the shells with the rest of the arrabbiata sauce and then sprinkle with some mozzarella cheese (however much you like – we like a lot of cheese!).
Bake at about 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the center of the shells are hot and the cheese is just starting to brown.
Instead of making one whole 9 x 13 dish of these shells, I like to freeze them in smaller portions of 6 shells – just right for dinner for my husband and I with a green or fruit salad. This way I get four meals out of one afternoon of cooking, which works out great for those days when we have been working hard on the future homestead and I don’t have the energy to cook! They freeze very well, just remember to either thaw them before you cook, or double the cooking time if still frozen.