“A” is for Artichokes!

Artichokes in Still Life

Why not indulge in the delicious ritual that is preparing and eating an artichoke? Even though they are a behemoth flower of a rather mean-looking rouge thistle, artichokes are a power-house of distinct flavor and abundant nutrition.

  • 5-15 grams of fiber per choke. That’s up 50% of the fiber you need daily!
  • Up to 45 mg Omega 3’s, and about 120 mg Omega 6’s. Cool, right?
  • Up to 107g Folate, a micronutrient essential to blood production, An especially important nutrient for women.
  • 557 mg Lutein and Beta Carotene, for your eye health.

Enough about the nutrition though, we’re really just after the flavor! So how does one cook a giant flower?

Artichoke Seasoned up for Poaching

Steam

Cut off the stem so the artichoke stands up straight. Place in a steaming basket. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Herbs and lemon zest are nice too! Drop a whole clove of garlic into the water. Use a large stockpot. Steam over a medium boil for 45-60 minutes. Heads up: This method uses lots of water, and you risk ruining the pot if the water boils out.

Poach

Place the artichoke in a 1-2 inch deep pool of water in a pot with a heavy lid. (Think Cast Iron Dutch Oven). Season as per above. Add a lemon wedge to the water. Poach for 45-60 minutes, check part way through to make sure the liquid has not evaporated out. Heads up: You can destroy you pot if the water cooks out.

Bake

Bake in a pan covered tightly with foil in a 350 degree oven. You can do them whole or slice them in half. Make sure there is some sort of moisture in the pan. This is the method to use if stuffing. See episode #37 of Hot Kitchen for a killer stuffed artichoke recipe. Heads up: Takes a long time and can come out dry if you overcook or do not keep them hydrated while cooking.

Grill

Slice the chokes in half. Blanch for 15 minutes in seasoned water. Transfer to grill, brush generously with oil. Cook over indirect heat, and finish with a bit of flame to char. Keep a spray bottle handy so you can keep the choke moist as it grills. Heads up: Tends to dry out quickly.
Due to the extraordinary amount of fiber present, this veggie takes quite while to cook. Steaming is by far my favorite method. It cooks the choke evenly and preserves the most nutrition. Poaching is good too. Lately I’ve been poaching in about an inch of water in my cast-iron dutch oven. (Mostly because I’ve ruined my stockpots by boiling out all the water steaming artichokes.) Baking and grilling are tough because the artichoke is most confident with moist heat.

Stages of doneness are shown, left to right. When you can easily sink your teeth into the petal halfway up and scrape it clean, the heart is tender.

Best Practices for all methods:

Rinse them really, really well with lukewarm water. If you can buy organic, do. Occaisionally I’ll taste my finger after handling an artichoke and get a taste of something bitter. I don’t know what it is, but it can’t be good. Clean them well.

  • Use lemon in the preparation. They are best buddies. The lemon enhances the flavor and expedites cooking. Expect an hour or more for cooking time; keep them moist while cooking.

How to Eat:

Serve with a bowl of melted or drawn butter! Dedicate a stick of butter and use the leftover to cook eggs or veggies. Season with lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Pull the petals from the flower. Dunk in drawn butter or zesty aioli. Turn the petal so the inside is up, sink your teeth in about halfway up. Draw the petal away from your lips to scrape the inside of the petal and enjoy. Scrape all the petals until you have reached the flimsy, pokey, hairy layer deep within. Scoop out the hair with a spoon and savor the luscious heart.

How to buy:

Purchase whole artichokes that have a firm texture and no signs of pest activity. Look for thick stems to indicate a well developed heart. Weigh them against each other and choose the heaviest one. Don’t worry if the petals look a little oxidized, often this is flavor enhancing frost bite.

If you’re just needing artichoke hearts, your options are either canned or marinated. Canned hearts cost $3-$6 each and are perfect for stirring into pastas, putting on pizzas, chopping into dips, etc. These tend to be the most nutritive and versatile option. It is not cost evPreparing your own hearts is a pain. For that reason, canned hearts are on my short list of canned foods. Marinated hearts are best served with an antipasti or perhaps on a salad. Check the ingredient list and only buy prepared chokes with a short list of recognizable ingredients.

Hot Kitchen Episodes Featuring Artichokes:

The other recipes will be in our cookbook that we are currently developing!


References: Livestrong.org, The CDC, The AHA 2010 Dietary Guidelines,

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