Artichokes with Fennel

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So a friend of mine has repeatedly told me how great artichokes are. I decided to give them a try. I searched and searched for an appealing recipe. Most of what I found were dip recipes, not what I was looking for. Since I also had a fennel bulb, I thought I'd see if I could find a recipe for the two of them together...not many of those out there. I finally found a likely selection on Food and Wine's web site. Never having tried artichokes before, I was glad this recipe gives basic preparation instructions. But if my friend had not told me how to eat them, I would have been lost.
                                                  Baked Artichokes with Fennel

Serves 4 as a first course

4 artichokes
1/2 lemon, plus 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4c olive oil, plus 3T
2 medium fennel bulbs- trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored and finely chopped
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1 large red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme ( I used 1/4 tsp ground, dried thyme)
salt and pepper
2T chopped flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus 1/2c leaves
1/2c coarse fresh bread crumbs

1. Using a sharp knife, trim artichoke stems to 1 inch and cut off 1 inch from the top. Using kitchen shears, trim 1/2 inch from each leaf. Halve the artichoke lengthwise, and scoop out the small spiky leaves and the hairy chokes. Leave a few layers of leaves.
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Rub the cut parts of the artichoke with the halved lemon ( you'll see from the photo above, that they brown very quickly) and set them, cut side down in a basket steamer. Steam over boiling water about 10 minutes until the hearts are tender.

2. In a deep skillet, heat 1/4c oil until shimmering. Add the fennel and onion and cook over medium high heat, stirring until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes longer.
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 (as you see, I used a white onion, instead of a red because that is what I had on hand)
Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add chopped parsley.

3. Heat oven to 450 degrees. (Original recipe calls for toasting breadcrumbs in the oven. I melted a bit of butter and cooked them on the stovetop). While oven is coming to temperature, Heat 1T oil in skillet. Pat artichokes dry and add them to skillet, cut side down. Fry  over moderate heat about 4 minutes until deep golden.

4. Place artichokes cut side up in  large baking dish, Top with fennel mixture. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs and bake 15 minutes, or until heated through

5. Arrange 2 artichoke halves on a plate. In a bowl, toss the parsley leaves with the remaining 1T oil and 1/2 tsp lemon juice seasoned with salt and pepper. atop with a bit more parsley and serve.
 (I apologize for not having a photo of completed dish - the picture I thought I thought took was no where on my camera.)( To eat the artichokes, my friend explained that each leaf is separated and only the very bottom of the leaf is consumed. There is a small "meaty" area that is scraped out and eaten. Scraped out either with the teeth or a knife. I was surprised at how very little there was to actually eat.)

As for taste, the fennel mixture was very good. The artichokes, not so much. I was very disappointed with their flavor. Basically, the 'chokes were tasteless. I did not feel they offered anything to the dish, except as  a vessel for the fennel. Maybe this was just a bland artichoke in they way that winter tomatoes really don't resemble ripe summer tomatoes. No matter, I will not be trying artichokes again any time soon.

It should be said that I do not fault the Food and Wine recipe in any way. I suppose I just do not appreciate the delicate flavor of the artichoke. And my friend? She steams them and dips them in melted butter and loves them. I guess this is a case of "to each his own". If anyone has anything to change my mind about these, please let me know. And I cannot imagine making artichoke dip.