Moroccan Veal and Beef Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms



I just came back from the grocery store and realized I have not picked up basic staples like sugar, we completely ran out, unless you count confectioner's sugar. I also forgot to buy baguette, not just to have at home in case of emergency sandwich dinner, but also for this dish of stuffed artichoke bottoms. I wet some of the baguette, squeeze it dry and cut into tiny little pieces to give these meatballs stuffed into artichoke bottoms some fluffiness and lightness. Plan B was set into motion, my friend Shoshi just mentioned she had a dinner party, and she made a similar dish, but she grates potato instead of adding bread to the mix to achieve the desired lightness to the meatballs. I have made these stuffed artichoke bottoms for many years now, some like to add cinnamon and nutmeg but the flavors come out incredibly pure without it as well. As you can see I do not even add the optional cumin in the ingredient list. If you wish to add these flavors they certainly do not detract from the dish. The result will be just as delicious but different!

Traditionally whether you go through the frying step or not (see below), the stuffed artichokes are cooked, almost covered with the liquid, on top of the stove top. This time around, I fried the stuffed artichokes as I usually do, covered with liquid sauce half way up the stuffed artichoke, and baked it in the oven instead cooking on the stove top. I found this method easier rather than the meatballs sliding in the pot, they were tucked nicely and securely into a perfect 9inchx9inch size ceramic baking pan (other oven safe baking pans can be used). I also like the option of tasting the meatball without the sauce.
If you are skipping the frying step, definitely use an egg in the beef/veal mixture. Also, arrange the meatballs in an deep oven safe dish with a lid, such a Dutch oven or Le Creuset. The liquid sauce should almost cover the meatballs for thorough cooking. Make sure the meatballs are snug so they won't slide and separate from Artichoke bottoms. Skipping the frying not only saves work but also makes it for a leaner dish. My friend Shoshi also uses turkey to make this dish even leaner.
Curious (random?!) anecdote: Notice I use onion in the beef/veal mixture but no garlic. and I use garlic in the sauce but not onion.

Moroccan Veal and Beef Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms

Ingredients for meatballs:
10 large (up to 20 small) artichoke bottoms frozen or canned. If in season fresh artichoke bottoms
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground veal, lamb or turkey
1 large onion, grated
1/2-1 medium baking potato, grated (or 1/4-1/2 cup bread crumbs or some baguette: wet, squeeze dry and cut into little pieces)
1 egg, whisked (optional)
1/3 bunch parsley, chopped
1/3 bunch cilantro, chopped
About 10 fresh mint leaves (no stems), chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional, I did not use it)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Flouring/frying ingredients: (This step can be skipped if you do not wish to fry)
First bowl:
6 plus tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
Touch of Salt
Touch of freshly ground black pepper
Second bowl:
2 whisked eggs

Canola oil for frying. NOT deep frying.

Sauce Ingredients:
1 15oz can of tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 jalapeno, sliced
4-5 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
1/2-1 teaspoon paprika
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2-1 lemon

Directions:
Artichoke stuffed with meatballs:
1. Mix all ingredients for meatballs in a bowl and fill each artichoke bottom cap as shown in picture.
Frying:
1. Whisk two eggs in a large bowl. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in another large bowl.
2. Pre heat oil in a frying pan
3. Dip stuffed artichoke bottom in egg mixture first then coat with flour mixture.
4. Fry until golden and flip. Continue frying until flipped side is golden
Sauce and baking dish:
1. In an approximately 9inchx9inch baking dish pour tomato sauce and water. Add to tomato sauce and water, jalapeno, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper

Arrange fried artichoke bottoms in the sauce. They will fit snugly! Bake at 350F preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Check mid-way through if liquid starts to evaporates, add a bit more water. Pour water into the sauce not over the meatballs.

Before serving: Squeeze 1/2 lemon juice into sauce.

Keep in mind to follow directions as specified in first few paragraphs if you choose not to fry the stuffed artichokes.

Serving suggestions: Serve with Israeli couscous as a main dish or as a first course all on it's own. If artichoke hearts are small, they can be served as an appetizer.

Alternatively you can stuff the artichoke bottoms with your favorite meatball recipe.