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Artichokes combine a lightly sweet and herbacious flavor with a soft, creamy texture. Once you know a few tricks for preparing them, it will be a snap to include this nutritional powerhouse in your cooking.

Food Basics

The artichoke is a flower bud. A member of the lettuce family, it grows at or near the top of the stalk of a perennial thistle that originated in southern Europe. We eat two parts of the artichoke: the tender parts of the leaves and the “heart” (the base of the flower bud). The “choke,” which is removed before eating, consists of fuzzy, spiky florets in the center of the bud, just on top of the heart. Baby or cocktail artichokes, which grow lower on the stalk and are harvested before they reach maturity, are more tender than full-grown artichokes, and their chokes do not need to be removed. Artichokes can be purchased fresh, canned, jarred or frozen. When buying fresh, look for leaves with a tight formation. Squeeze the artichokes and listen for a squeaky sound from plump and crisp leaves. A slight browning of the leaves is natural, but avoid those with heavy browning.

Nutritional Know-How

The artichoke is rich in lutein, the yellow or orange pigment in many vegetables, which is essential for healthy eyes and a well-functioning circulatory system. Lutein helps ward off cataracts and macular degeneration; it also prevents or delays the onset of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This delicious vegetable contains very high levels of phenolics, which have antioxidant properties and are known to lower cholesterol. Artichokes are a good source of dietary fiber and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron and calcium, as well as vitamin C and the B vitamins.

Eat Up!

  • For a satisfying and healthful snack, boil or steam an artichoke. First remove all tough outer leaves (the first layer and ring or two around stem) to expose the light green leaves. To boil, place in salted water with one or two cut lemons for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on size) until the bottom pierces easily with a sharp knife. Boiling allows the artichoke to absorb the lemon flavors. Steam by placing in a steamer basket over 2 to 4 inches of boiling water for 40 to 50 minutes. Serve boiled or steamed artichoke whole. Remove leaves one at a time, dipping them into your favorite vinaigrette or butter, and use your front teeth to scrape the tender stuff into your mouth. Spread open the final delicate leaves and remove the choke with a teaspoon. The heart can be sliced and shared or you can eat it with your fingers.
  • Sauté sliced, raw artichoke hearts in a small amount of olive oil and finish by simmering in vegetable or chicken stock or water for two to four minutes. Serve as a side dish to entrées — vegetarian, poultry, fish or meat. 
  • Purée cooked artichoke hearts flavored with garlic, lemon juice and chopped flat parsley, and serve on toast or use as a bed under a poached or sautéed fish filet or chicken breast.

Kitchen Tricks

  • To keep artichokes moist, sprinkle with a few drops of water before sealing them in a plastic bag and storing in the refrigerator.
  • Right before cooking, wash fresh artichokes under cold water, carefully tapping the leaves and opening slightly to ensure that no little bugs have found a home inside.
  • Canned or jarred artichokes should be rinsed to remove the brine and reduce sodium content. You can rinse artichokes that have been packed in oil, too, if you like.
  • After cutting fresh artichokes, place in a bowl of cool water with the juice of one or two lemons to prevent browning. 

Tomato, Artichoke and Onion Salad

  • 1 medium yellow tomato cut into eight wedges
  • 2 medium red tomatoes, each cut into eight wedges
  • 3 fresh baby artichoke hearts, steamed and cut into four pieces
  • 1/3 cup julienne red onion
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato vinegar*
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine everything except vinegar and oil. Toss salad gently, then slowly pour vinegar and oil over salad and mix. Refrigerate and marinate a half-hour before serving.

Per serving (1 cup): calories 80; protein 3 g; total fat 2.5 g; saturated fat 0 g; carbohydrate 13 g; dietary fiber 5 g; cholesterol 0 mg; sodium 220 mg

Sun-Dried Tomato Vinegar
Makes: 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 basil leaf
  • 1 – 1-inch sprig of rosemary
  • 1 cup rice-wine vinegar

Heat vinegar in a saucepan to a simmer. Sterilize a glass container by either submerging into boiling water for five minutes or running through dishwasher. Place remaining ingredients into sterilized bottle. Slowly pour vinegar into container and cool. Seal tightly and store at room temperature for at least a week prior to serving. When ready to use, strain through a fine mesh strainer, pour vinegar into a sterilized jar and discard tomatoes. Will keep for two weeks at room temperature.

Presented by Conscious Cuisine.|

Artichoke Soup

Makes 8 cups

  • 1/4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups canned artichoke hearts, quartered, packed in water
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tsp. fresh minced garlic
  • 3 cups peeled and chopped potatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium stockpot over high heat. Add the artichokes, onion and celery and cook until the onions have softened, about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Stir in the potatoes, bay leaf, thyme and oregano. Add the vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring contents to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Carefully ladle the soup into a blender. Purée the soup until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer to remove any pulp. Return the strained soup to a pan and heat to serve. Adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper. You may need to add a little more stock or water to the soup for a creamy consistency if the soup is too thick.

Per serving (1 cup): calories 120; protein 5 g; total fat 0 g; saturated fat 0 g; carbohydrates 27 g; dietary fiber 7 g; cholesterol 0 mg; sodium 170 mg

Presented by Conscious Cuisine.|

Artichoke Spread

Makes 3 cups

  • 2 (14-ounce) jars of artichokes packed in water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced roasted garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black

Place the ingredients into a food processor and purée until smooth. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week.

Per serving (2 tablespoons or 1 ounce): calories 20; protein 1g; total fat 0g; saturated fat 0g; carbohydrates 4g; dietary fiber 1g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 220mg

Presented by Conscious Cuisine.

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