Friday, June 10, 2011

Farm Fresh: The Artichoke!

Welcome to the first week of my Summer Foodie Friday series: Farm Fresh! I wanted to take advantage of the abundance of this growing season by featuring a new unusual vegetable (or type of vegetable) each week. These vegetables may be ones you've had before, or ones you've heard of but never dared to taste. Or, they may be ones you just had no idea how to prepare to eat. I'll include a bit of information about the vegetable and also a simple recipe. The series will run through the Summer months (until the end of August), and I'll publish a post at least every other week.

I'm enjoying this project already, as it's encouraging me to try new things and also to learn more about the vegetables I see at the farmer's market but haven't yet had the nerve to try. If there's a vegetable you'd like to see featured in the series, or if you have a recipe or preparation tip to add, please let me know in the comments!

For this first week of my series, I chose to highlight the mighty artichoke. Maybe the artichoke isn't a totally uncommon vegetable, but I think a lot of us have only ever had it canned or in dips. Preparing and eating a fresh artichoke is actually quite easy and fun.

Besides being delicious to eat, the artichoke has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of all vegetables. It has diuretic effects, and can lower cholesterol levels, which in turn reduces risk for developing coronary artery disease.

Artichokes can be eaten by themselves, in dips or on pizza. They can be made into an herbal tea, and are the primary flavor of an Italian liqueur. (Learn even more fun facts about artichokes on Wikipedia.)

I chose to prepare my artichoke simply by steaming then eating it (though I did share it with Jaymz and Daniel). This is a simple way to cook an artichoke and while eating one does take some work, I find it to be a fun activity. I referenced this tutorial from Simply Recipes while preparing my artichoke (which has a lot more detailed photographs than I took).

The only thing you really need is an artichoke (of course!). However, for this recipe, I also used a slice of lemon, a bay leaf, a clove of garlic, and a little mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar.
  • If the artichoke has thorns on the tips of the leaves, use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the tips off of the leaves. (This step is optional.)
  • Cut the top off of the artichoke, about ¾ of an inch. After both of those steps, the artichoke will look like this:
  • Trim off the stem of the artichoke so that there is an inch or less left. (Some people eat the stem, apparently, but I opted not to.)
  • Put a few inches of water in the bottom of a pot, along with the lemon, bay leaf, and garlic clove. Place a steaming basket in your pot and put the artichoke in it.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and steam covered for 25-45 minutes, or until the outer leaves peel off easily. (Larger artichokes will take longer to cook.)
  • Remove from the pot and peel the leaves off one by one, eating the tender white portion that is next to the center of the plant. You will have to scrape them with your teeth to get the meat of the artichoke off. The outer leaves will be tougher, but as you work toward the center, you will be able to eat more and more of the bulk of each leaf.
  • Artichokes can be eaten plain or dipped in melted butter or butter substitute. The Simply Recipes tutorial suggested a mixture of mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar, which I tried this time. I didn't measure the proportions, but would advise adding the vinegar bit by bit until the dip has reached the desired taste.
    Here you can see the mayo/vinegar dip on an outer artichoke leaf.
  • As you eat more and more, you will eventually reach the center of the artichoke. The tiny, tender leaves can pretty much be eaten whole, though they're not as meaty or as flavorful as the larger ones. You can remove and discard them if you want.
  • Once the inner leaves are removed, there will be some inedible fuzzy stuff (the "choke") covering the artichoke heart. This can be easily scraped off with a spoon. What's left after you remove the choke is the heart.
    You can see the discarded fuzzy "choke"
    on the blue cutting board on the right.
  • Cut it into pieces, dip in sauce or butter, and eat!
Artichoke hearts are also really good in dips like spinach artichoke (that recipe would take maybe 3 or 4 artichoke hearts). How do you like to eat an artichoke?

Linked up at Seasonal Sundays at Real Sustenance.

I added a recipe linky:

5 comments:

  1. I prepared my first artichokes just a few weeks ago, and I think we used the same methods and dip that you show here. I was surprised at how tasty it was, and my husband was surprised by how much work it was to eat. I enjoyed them though.

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  2. Ahem. I hope you read my recipe for the most amazing artichoke dipping sauce ever. Artichokes are my life :) I'm so glad I'm not the only person who knows they exist.

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  3. @Amanda: I did not see that recipe. Please do leave a link; I'd love to try it!

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  4. Here you go! http://letstakethemetro.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-i-eat-artichoke-or-two-or-three-or.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for this post. Inspired, I grabbed my garden shears to behead our first ever artichoke. And it's full of ants! Aaaah!

    Well, there are some baby ones. So, I'm off to the nursery to pick up some companion plants that repel ants (lavender and mints)

    ReplyDelete

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