Taxi Drivers and Stuffed Artichokes

by Sarah on June 20, 2011

There was a time when my husband flew across the world as casually as one might drive to the city, being funneled from one mode of transportation to another.  On one such business trip he met Daniel, a soft spoken Moroccan taxi driver who became a friend by the end of the ride.

preserved lemons, olives and parsley

Preserved lemons, home cured olives and parsley

Daniel is the antithesis of the stereotypical “tough guy” Moroccan man and although he was born and raised in Casablanca his French tinged Hebrew is anything but intimidating. From the short rides from here to there, I have gleamed stories from his life (which is not unusual for Israeli taxi drivers). We have discussed politics, family, travel destinations and food. His wife it turns out is a fantastic cook. When I prodded him for some recipes he gave me her telephone number, “She’s Turkish but my mother taught her everything about Moroccan cooking, call her, she’ll know”. So I did.

Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes are a Sephardic Moroccan specialty.

Filling

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

600 grams ground veal, lamb or beef

1/2 cup packed parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

1 tablespoon bread crumbs

10-12 artichoke bottoms. If fresh, remove the outer leaves and the fuzzy core, leaving only the artichoke hearts. Alternately use frozen artichoke bottoms, that’s what I did.

Dipping mixture

½ cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

Sauce

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

Juice of one lemon

1 onion, chopped

2-4 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

1 cup water, chicken or vegetable broth

Fry the onion in the oil until golden. Mix the raw meat, flat leaf parsley, salt and pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, breadcrumbs and egg and knead to a soft paste with your hands. When the onions are cooled, add them to the meat mixture and mix well. Take lumps of the meat mixture and fill the artichoke bottoms, making little mounds. Dip the meat side of the artichokes in the flour then the beaten egg and fry meat side down until golden brown. Transfer to cool on to a paper towel. The artichokes will continue to cook in the sauce so the meat does not need to be completely cooked at this point.

Sauce

Preheat oven to 170°C. In an oven proof pot (I recommend using a clay pot for this recipe.), fry the onion in olive oil until golden brown, add the garlic and continue cooking for a few moments longer. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, turmeric and salt and pepper. Arrange the artichokes in the sauce, single layer and add about 1 cup water or broth, enough to almost cover them. Bring to a boil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 60 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the artichokes are soft. If the sauce is thin and still watery, remove the artichokes and pour the sauce in a small saucepan. Reduce the sauce over medium heat, stirring so bits don’t settle and burn. Pour over artichokes.

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