Although American diners usually associate it with spinach alfredo sauce and deep-fried bits of starchy goodness, the thistley California artichoke has long enjoyed special status as a gourmet vegetable for nicer palates. They are relatively expensive (priced around two to four dollars each in most of the U.S.) and their edible flesh is poor in calories, fiber and other helpful nutrients, aside from potassium. Further alienating the vegetable from the vulgar realm of starchy peasant staples, of course, is its monumental taste. Chefs and gastronomes praise the mighty 'choke for her unique, somewhere-between-citrus-and-tomato flavor, which, when coupled with tanginess of onions, leeks, and / or garlic, can help improve a fine meal from being a memorable to an unforgettable experience.

Disclaimer / BIG BOLD WARNING: As you might have inferred from the bad ad-copy that precedes this, this is a recipe for the metrosexual in all of us. 'Choke ravioli is a side dish meant to be served with grace and effete pomp. It's not a load of filler to veg out with while you watch wrestling; it is a truly gourmet dish that's intended to impress people and not actually nourish them, like deep-fried pickles. Trying to pass off a ravioli without a meat filler is something about 99% of the public can neither understand nor respect, and it may get you shot in some areas of the American South. Can't handle it? Go get a Hungry Man, Bubba.

And, on a more serious note, this thing is chock-full of carbs. Best to serve and eat it in small amounts like antipasti. You'll fall unconscious and wake up with a swollen pancreas and the taste of sugar in your mouth if you don't.

Now that that's out of the way, put on that striped shirt, chef's hat, and other stereotypical French garments and gather these ingredients:

The dough:

Eggs (Large):
One beaten (to make a glaze)
Three whole ones
Two egg yolks, beaten

Three cups white all purpose flour (for wheat pasta, substitute half with wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
A ravioli cutter or cake trimmer with which to flute the stuff. It has to be able to roll and make fun designs. I think I had a Play-Doh set with something like that, once. Ask your kids for help.

The paste:

Two whole eggs
One egg yolk (you will beat this together with the two eggs mentioned above)
One 12 oz. can of artichokes. Can also be 4 fresh ones, but the husked variety cut down on the preparation time immensely.
A small yellow onion
Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (general rule of thumb: the greener the better)
Three tablespoons of unsalted butter
More salt (a little bit. A pinch)
Black pepper
Parmesan and / or Romano cheese, about 1/2 cup.

The paste: Shred the artichoke hearts with your fingers into individual strips. Peel and chop the onion and sautee it with the artichokes in the butter on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until onions are carmelized. Add salt and pepper to taste. When finished, dump the stuff into a blender, stir in the eggs, olive oil, and cheese, and puree it to a state of creamy goodness.

The dough: Slap together the eggs, flour, and the salt. Knead with fingers on a non-stick surface until mixed and pliable. Roll it out into two fairly thin, equally-sized sheets (as thin as possible without it being uneven or breaking).

Here's the tough part. You'll have to emplace the artichoke filling in amounts of about half a teaspoon, with enough space to cut out individual pieces of ravioli. After that's done, you must take your the untouched sheet and place it down on top of the one with filling as squarely as possible. Using your child's Play-Doh toy, cut out the ravioli into two inch squares.


THE GOURMET WAY: Once cut free, the ravioli should be boiled until they begin to rise to the surface. Drain and serve them as you would any other kind of pasta, particulary with marinara sauce. Rosemary and thyme accompany it well.

THE MANLY WAY: Boil as above. Heat skillet with corn or peanut oil to medium-high temperature. Fry the bastards for about a minute on each side. Drain, put on a T.G.I. Friday's uniform, and serve with a smile and dipping sauce. You Philistine.

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