What a way to begin!
There is a wonderful, homey restaurant in Santa Barbara call Pan e Vino (no connection to the one in LA). They have been serving an appetizer like this one for years. We liked it so much that we begged my father to try to replicate it at home. This is his version.
4 artichokes, washed and trim the leaves - with a very sharp knife cut off about 1 ½ inches off of the top of the leaves. With kitchen scissors remove the sharp portions of any leaves that still have tops.
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon onion, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons best quality extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
Boil all four artichokes until tender, approximately 30 minutes. I boil artichokes by placing them in about ½ inch of water in a large covered pot. Each artichoke should rest on the bottom of the pot. They should not be stacked on top of each other. Add a small amount of lemon juice to the water and the artichokes will maintain their color. Once they have been boiling for 30 minutes pull a leaf off and taste it. Make sure it is tender before you stop the cooking process.
Take two of the artichokes and trim off all of the leaves and the fur. Finely chop the artichoke hearts.
Take the remaining two artichokes and remove all center leaves and fur down to the heart. Leave the exterior leaves attached. Spread the leaves outward so that there is a center cavity.
Blend the tomatoes, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Fill the center cavities of the two artichokes with the filling, and spread the filling into the spaces of the surrounding leaves.
Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.