Moroccan-Style Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms
Stuffed artichoke bottoms (left in the photo above), prepared by the Moroccan side of my family, always made Shabbat and holiday meals (especially Passover) special while growing up. Coincidentally, Moshe Zusman, who photographed this dish, shared that his own Moroccan mother makes them and that this dish is one of his favorites as well. The artichoke bottoms are usually stuffed with meatballs. However, I inherited my nutritionist grandmother’s passion for making vegetarian/vegan variations of our treasured family dishes. The natural choice was an eggplant “meatball” studded with chunks of mushroom and bell pepper. Photo by Moshe Zusman Photography Studio.
- Vegetarian “Meatballs” for Stuffing
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces (preferably Chinese eggplant)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 large Portobello mushrooms (or other mushroom variety), chopped into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 cup cooked or canned white beans, rinsed and drained
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole panko crumbs (Italian seasoning flavor or season to taste) (variations: matzah meal during Passover, gluten-free breadcrumbs if gluten-free is needed)
- 1/8 cup basil leaves, chopped (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped, or ¼ teaspoon dried (optional)
- Dash of red cooking wine (optional)
- Juice of ½ a lemon (optional)
- Pinch of red chili flakes or Aleppo pepper (optional)
- 2-3 13.75-ounce cans artichoke bottoms, drained, or frozen artichokes, defrosted
- To Finish
- Vegetable oil for frying (optional)
- 6 mint leaves (optional)
- 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional) (omit to make vegan/pareve)
- Sprinkle of sumac (optional)
- Making the “meatballs”: Heat ½ to 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the eggplant and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add water and stir occasionally until the eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor.
- Add the remaining ½ to 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and the onion and garlic, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add cooked onion and garlic to the food processor, as well as beans, parsley and half of chopped bell pepper (and basil if using) and pulse until well combined and chopped, but not pureed. Remove the mixture from the food processor and place in a bowl.
- Add breadcrumbs (or matzah meal for Passover) and optional condiments, if using, and mix well, adjusting salt, seasoning and breadcrumbs/matzah meal as needed to get a good meatball texture without overwhelming the eggplant mixture.
- Stuffing the artichokes: Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a large rimmed baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Take a drained artichoke bottom. Roll the stuffing mixture into a “meatball” that fits snuggly into that artichoke bottom’s cavity, approximately 1½ inches in diameter, adding 3 to 5 bits of chopped mushroom and 3 to 5 of bell pepper when rolling. It helps to coat the palm of your hands with olive oil when rolling. Place the “meatball” into the cavity of the artichoke bottom. Repeat with the remaining artichoke bottoms to make about 12 to 15 stuffed bottoms.
- Optional: Heat vegetable oil in a wide, deep pan, about 1-inch deep and deep-fry the stuffed artichokes for about 1 to 2 minutes (or until the “meatball” is solid and medium brown on the outside). Remove and drain on a paper towel.
- Transfer stuffed (and deep-fried, if chosen) artichoke bottoms from to the baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until the “meatballs” are firm and brown. Garnish with mint leaves and sprinkle with grated Parmesan or sumac, if using, or serve with Carciofi alla Giudia.