Looking for a patio party pleaser with a distinctly Italian flavor to it?
Look no further than Carcofi Ripieni for a desirable headliner, paired with a bevy of monster red wines with an Italian/California pedigree.
Artichokes are a fascinating bowl-like green vegetable with lots of nutritional value. They are a very delicious treat when each leaf or bract of the Carcofi is stuffed with Italian delights such as grated aged Pecorino cheese, Italian breadcrumbs with seasonings and sweet basil and crushed garlic, all drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and white wine.
You have to have time and patience to consume artichokes of any kind but especially stuffed Italian style. The edible portion is the leaf pulp (also called flower buds) before the flowers come into bloom. The base or heart of the plant is also edible and is the most delicious of this eat-by-hand meal.
Artichokes are healthy choices. They contain the highest antioxidant ingredient reported for a vegetable and were first cultivated for eating by the Sicilians and popularized as a delicacy by the Greeks, Spanish, Italians and French. In America, California produces 42,000 tons, with nearly 100 percent of the U.S. crop in the City of Castroville, proclaiming itself the “Artichoke Center of the World.” But this is still far behind Italy with over 500 thousand tons produced.
Briefly, stuffed Carciofi is made after cutting off the top thorns of the leaves, and trimming the stem at the bottom. Open the leaves and stuff with mixed breadcrumbs, grated cheese, ground garlic and sweet basil. Drizzle over the top of the leaves with olive oil and white wine.
Place the artichokes in a baking dish with a small amount of water in the dish. Cover the artichokes with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 1½ hours. The stuffed leaves should pull out easily when they are done.
To eat, grab each leaf by the top and scrape out the pulp with the delicious stuffing, with your teeth.
Now on to the wines, a selection of six, with each guest encouraged to, “taste them all and note the changes in taste with the Carciofi.”
The wines chosen for this party were:
- Gerard Bertrand Cote des Rosé France (2015; $12).
- Cantina Zaccagnini Montepuciano, Italy (2013; $12).
- The Prisoner blend, Napa Valley, Calif. (2014; $35).
- Ferrari Carano UNA blend, Sonoma Calif. (2014; $39).
- Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Calif. ($75).
These wines range from light and airy with the rosé for those that love a wine that was simpatico with the artichoke flavor, to heavy bodied and tannic with the Cabernet for the guests that wanted a pairing with the strong garlic and cheesy element in the stuffing. One Carciofi is easily enough for a meal. I suggest that all the food you need is in that one fat, plump artichoke. More details on the recipe can be found at food.com.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at tasteofwinetv.com and reach him at [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook.