Lots of parsley flavors the light stuffing, which imbibes the olive oil and red wine vinegar. Choose coarse bread, with a large crumb, such as ciabatta or Italian batard. The artichokes can be made the day before, as can the stuffing, leaving only assembly the day of the meal.
4 medium to large artichokes
1 cup water
4 cups fresh bread crumbs (no crusts) made from coarse crumb bread such as ciabatta or Italian batard
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley, about one bunch
2 cloves garlic (optional)
½ to 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 Roma or medium tomato, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cut off the upper 1/3 and the stem of each artichoke. Place in a steamer rack over boiling water. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and steam until the base of the artichoke offers little resistance when pierced with the tines of a fork, about 30 minutes, depending on the size and maturity of the artichokes. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, with a metal teaspoon, scoop out the central leaves, and, removing the thistle and any furry bits. This will make a cavity about 1 ½ inches wide. Set aside. Put the water in a bowl and add the breadcrumbs, stirring. Leave just long enough to soften the bread, anywhere from 15 seconds to several minutes. This depends upon how dry the bread is and how coarse the crumb. Squeeze dry and remove to a clean bowl.
Add the vinegar, parsley, minced tomato, garlic, if using, ½ teaspoon of salt, the pepper, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Squeeze dry again. Taste and adjust seasoning. The mixture will appear fluffy, but should be dense enough to just hold its shape when squeezed into a ball.
Spoon about ¼ cup of the stuffing into the cavity of each artichoke. Pry back a layer of the leaves, and tuck a ½ teaspoon or so of the stuffing at the base of each leaf. Pry back another layer and repeat. The artichoke will expand like a flower. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving.