Make Friends with the Artichoke!

IMG_7006Few things excite me more at the produce stand than a giant pyramid of artichokes! It’s that time of year when artichokes are in season. And as some of you know, this makes me very happy. They look and taste different from any other vegetable and, whether you want to turn them into a dip, a risotto, a pasta or just a conversation piece, give artichokes a try! Come and cook with us!

Artichokes have been around for ages. In fact, they were believed to enhance sexual power and aid fertility in ancient Egypt and Europe. To this day, Italians consume a lot of artichokes. In fact, Italy is by far the largest artichoke producer in the world churning out almost 10 times more artichokes than the U.S. Who knew!

There are multiple reasons why I love artichokes. Most importantly, it’s the taste that makes them irresistible to me. Luckily, artichokes are also healthy as they contain powerful antioxidants that help the body from damaging free radicals which can cause disease and accelerate aging. Artichokes also help indigestion which is probably why Italians have turned some of their many artichoke into a uniquely flavored and amazingly delicious after-dinner bitter called Cynar. And yes, I’ve been known to bring a bottle or two of it to the U.S. Thanks to a flavanoid called silymarin (aptly named…), artichokes are great for the liver and, probably it’s biggest selling point apart from its unique taste, artichokes contain more fiber per serving than pretty much any other vegetable, although i’m not sure if that is based on the assumption that we’ll consume the entire bulb, including all the tough, hard outer leaves.

Cooking and eating artichokes can be an intensive labor of love, either because they require quite a bit of prepping or because it takes time to eat your way through the entire “pokey thistle”. Many recipes call for the artichokes to be trimmed, peeled, quartered, and sliced and that works really well with the smaller variety. Once they reach a reasonable size, the best way to enjoy an artichoke is by steaming it and then pulling off each leaf and nibbling off the soft inner part of it. It’s divine, whether you eat it as is or dip it into a vinaigrette, dip or melted butter. And to finish off in style, you’ll have the meaty heart at the end giving you another boost of flavor that will linger with you long after dinner is done. What can I say, I love artichokes. Come and cook with us!

Steamed Artichoke

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