Reading our blog, one would think that we like our vegetables the way parents love their kids: you can’t pick a favorite. But that’s not the case with me: I like beets, I like broccoli, I like green beans, but I LOVE artichokes, above any other vegetable. On my first visit to Carmel, the home of the artichoke, I thought I had arrived in culinary heaven: artichokes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe their unique and distinct flavor really agrees with me, or I get hooked because of all the work I have to put in to get to the good parts, but whatever the reason, give me an artichoke and I know just what to do with it. Come and cook with us!
Artichoke is a vegetable superfood packed with fiber (which we like a lot) and phytochemicals such as luteolin that prevent the oxidation of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. They are also high in folate, manganese and silymarin, an active ingredient that helps protect and nourish the liver. What I’ve also learned, is that artichokes contain a polyphenolic compound called cynarin which, besides its many other benefits, is what makes everything we eat afterwards taste oddly sweet. But even with all these good parts, artichokes aren’t for every meal as they either take time to prepare or time to eat.
One can prepare artichokes as a risotto, on pizzas, in pasta sauces, roasted, pickled, as an after-dinner bitter (a.k.a. Cynar) but the way we like artichokes in our home is steamed and eaten leaf by leaf, dipped into a simple vinaigrette, biting off the fleshy portion until you get to the best part, the “heart of the artichoke”. As I said to my kids, this is when you know if someone truly loves you: will they share their hard-earned artichoke heart with you. If so, you have a winner! If not, keep looking for your soul-mate.
I know that this vegetable might look a little off-putting and hard to handle, but don’t be discouraged. Purists will trim the top and outer-most layer of leaves before steaming them, stem-side up, until they are tender. This can take 15-20 minutes in a pressure cooker, or more like 30-45 minutes in a regular pot, depending on the size and freshness of the bulb. In any event, you’ll know that they are tender when you can easily pull out a leaf. One other word of advice is that some artichoke hearts will be lined with a fuzzy top layer that looks like a beard. You better peel that off with the edge of a spoon before you dip your piece de resistance into what you have left of your vinaigrette. Lip-smacking, finger-licking and melt-in-your-mouth good. Come and cook with us!