Elegant Finger Food
The artichoke is a tasty harbinger of spring—once you unlock its secrets.
By Lisa James
Artichokes can be intimidating to the first-time diner—how do you eat them? The novice chef, too, can be left puzzled—how do you cook them? But once you’ve tasted an artichoke, you understand why vegetable gourmets hold these green gems in high esteem. What’s more, artichokes provide fiber, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and a phytonutrient called cynarin, which promotes healthy digestion and liver function.
A member of the thistle family, the artichoke is actually an immature flower bud and its “leaves” the flower’s petals. Slice an artichoke lengthwise and you’ll find the heart down near the bottom along with fuzzy material known as the “choke.”
Prepare artichokes by washing them under running cold water and cutting the stems close to the base. (Using a stainless steel knife helps prevent discoloration.) You can then cut off the thorny part at the top. The choke and inner purple petals can be removed before or after cooking, generally boiling or steaming. If you aren’t cooking the artichokes right away, plunge them into a bowl of water with some lemon juice or vinegar added to keep them from turning brown.
To eat a whole artichoke, pull off the outer petals one at a time, dip into sauce or melted butter, pull them through your front teeth to remove the pulp and discard what’s left. When the petals are gone, you can then cut the heart into dipping-sized chunks.
When buying artichokes, look for tight, dark green globes heavy for their size. They range from medium (the size of a tennis ball) through large up to jumbo (softball-sized). Store artichokes, unwashed and refrigerated, in a plastic bag for up to four days.
Inviting friends and family over for a spring fling? Show off your high style by serving artichokes.
4 large artichokes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Slice artichoke tops crosswise and trim stems.
Boil or steam until bottoms pierce easily or a petal pulls off easily. Drain and cool.
2. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and scrape out fuzzy center
along with any purple-tipped petals.
3. Mix remaining ingredients in a large plastic bag. Place artichokes in the
bag and coat on all sides with the oil mixture. Marinate at least 1 hour;
for best flavor leave in the refrigerator overnight.
4. Prepare the grill by creating a solid bed of medium coals or turning the gas
to medium. Drain artichokes, retaining marinade, place on grill cut side down and
grill until lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Turn them over, drizzle with some of the remaining marinade, and grill until petal tips are lightly charred, 3-4 minutes more.
Serves 8. Analysis per serving: 103 calories, 3g protein, 7g fat (1g saturated), 5g fiber, 9g carbohydrate, 429 mg sodium
Baked Artichoke Casserole
2 medium artichokes
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 medium onions, sliced thick
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
6 oz mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese, sliced
1. Bend back outer petals of each artichoke until they snap off easily near the base; edible portions of petals should remain on the artichoke’s bottom. Continue to snap off and discard thick petals until central core of pale green petals is reached. Trim brown end of stem and cut off top 2” of artichokes; discard. Pare outer dark-green surface layer from bottoms. Cut out center petals and fuzzy centers. Slice artichoke bottoms about 1/4” thick. Toss with lemon juice to prevent discoloration; set aside.
2. Sauté onions in oil 5-8 minutes or until tender. Spoon evenly into 2-qt baking dish and sprinkle with herb seasoning. Arrange tomato, artichoke and cheese slices on top of the onions, overlapping slightly in the center of the dish.
3. Cover dish with lid or foil. Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes.
Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 250 calories, 13g protein, 16g fat (7g saturated), 5g fiber, 15g carbohydrate, 329 mg sodium
Used with permission of the California Artichoke Advisory Board (www.artichokes.org)