• Tommy Centola

Three artichoke appetizers sure to entertain

Like an oyster, I wonder who was the first person to look at an artichoke and think that it would have something worth eating inside. The oyster you have to open. To get to the artichoke heart, you have to get past all those leaves. To prepare a fresh artichoke is a labor of love.

Fortunately, you can find artichoke hearts already removed from the plant. There are many ways to prepare this tasty thistle. One of my wife’s favorite is Stuffed Artichoke. Since I have already shared that recipe, I thought today I would share 3 appetizer dishes to get you ready to entertain for the holidays: Artichoke and Crabmeat Beignets, Crawfish and Artichoke Bread, and Mona’s Artichoke Squares. Let’s head to the kitchen!

When most people think of beignets, they picture the powdered sugar dusted doughnuts from Café du Monde. I’m not sure who was the first person to add savory items to a batter and fry them like beignets. I am very thankful for that person. The variations are endless.

Artichoke and Crabmeat Beignets

1 bunch green onions, white part only, chopped

¼ cup chopped pimentos

4 ounces chopped artichoke hearts

2 large cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

1 pint flour

1 pint water

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat

Peanut oil for frying

Mix flour and baking powder. Add chopped artichoke, green onions, garlic, parsley, and pimentos. Add salt and cayenne pepper. Add water and mix until batter is well blended. Fold in crabmeat. Fry in oil at 350℉ until golden brown. Use tablespoon to drop batter into oil.

We are starting to get close to crawfish season. Here’s a great way to put a twist on traditional crawfish bread. The fried crawfish tails gives a nice contrast to the soft spread on top of the bread.

Crawfish and Artichoke Bread

6 ounces baby spinach

1 tablespoon water

14.5 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed, chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12-inch piece French bread

Fried crawfish tails

In a large skillet, add spinach and water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Remove from pan. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze excess water from spinach, and chop; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, artichoke hearts, Parmesan, Brie, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.

Spread cut side of bread with artichoke mixture. Bake until bread is golden and artichoke mixture is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Top artichoke bread with fried crawfish tails, and slice crosswise into individual servings.

Today’s final recipe is from, in my opinion, the best cook I have ever eaten from, my mom. This is a great appetizer for any meal. She often served it when she entertained her card group. When she served this, it was one of the few moments when there was quiet coming from the tables.

Mona’s Artichoke Squares

1 (13.75-ounce) can artichoke hearts

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ cup olive oil

1 egg

Garlic to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain hearts and set juice aside in a bowl. Mash hearts and add bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, and olive oil. Add egg to juice and beat. Add this to mixture and stir until well blended. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate. Cut into squares before serving.

Artichoke hearts was one of my mother’s favorite ingredients. They will add an upscale appeal to your dish. Open up some artichoke hearts this holiday season. Use them in salads and entrées. Your company will be amazed with your cooking.

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