Artichoke and Ricotta Tartlets

  • 1 lemon each
  • 3 medium artichokes each
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fennel seed
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 white onion each, cut into fine julienne
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme, freshly chopped
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese   
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
  • 1 large egg each
Juice lemon into a 2-quart mixing bowl and add about 1 quart of cold water. One artichoke at a time, snap off the outer leaves to expose the greenish yellow inner leaves. Cut off the top of the inner leaves with a very sharp knife, leaving only the yellow/green tender bottom portion. Use a sharp paring knife to cut the end off the stem, then peel off the dark green outer skin from the stem and bottom of each artichoke.

Dip the trimmed artichoke in the lemon water, then cut it in half lengthwise from blossom to stem end. Use a small spoon or paring knife to remove the choke and purple inner leaves from each half, then return the cleaned artichoke to the lemon water. When all of the artichokes are cleaned, remove them from the lemon water and slice them thinly from blossom to stem end. Return the sliced artichoke to the water until ready to cook.

Heat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the olive oil and heat it through. When the oil is hot, add the fennel seed and sliced garlic, and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the onion julienne and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until limp and translucent. Drain sliced artichokes in a colander, and add them to the onion mixture with wine and 1/4 cup water. Stir ingredients together, season with salt and pepper, and bring heat to a low simmer. Cover pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until artichokes are cooked through, but not mushy. Remove lid and reduce any remaining liquid over medium heat, then remove pan from burner and allow mixture to cool.

When the pan has cooled to room temperature, transfer the contents to a food processor and add thyme, ricotta, and 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Process to a smooth purée, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add egg and pulse to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate filling until ready to use.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. Place a sheet of puff pastry on a cutting board and cut out 24 individual 2-inch circles with a round cutter. Transfer rounds of pastry to a baking sheet, and using a 1-inch round cutter, gently score the center of each pastry round, pressing about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through the pastry. Brush the top of each round very lightly with egg wash, and bake the shells for 10-12 minutes, or until puffed and golden on top. Remove the shells from the oven and allow them to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
When cool, use the tip of a paring knife to remove the center from each pastry shell. Use your finger to collapse the center of each shell, then pipe or spoon 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons filling into each shell. Place a pinch of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the filling, and bake for 15 minutes. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Makes 24 bite-sized tartlets.