Artichokes are everywhere in the grocery store this time of year and they make a delicious treat for dinner. I grew up eating artichokes every once in a while. Back then we ate them with a side of butter sauce and a little extra salt, and I learned from a young age how to navigate my way around the “choke” which hides in the middle of the vegetable, lying in wait for an unsuspecting diner.
When I was a little older, I was once served an artichoke in Paris when there for a study abroad semester during my university days. I’ll never forget how surprised my French host family was when they saw that I knew how to eat an artichoke — they had apparently never met an American who had been raised in the ways of this wily vegetable.
I am also a fan of the Fighting Artichokes who hail from the Scottsdale Arizona Community College athletic department. I have no direct tie to that college, but love their mascot, Artie the Artichoke, who I learned about on a trip to Arizona a few years back.
Moving on to food and nutrition – here’s a bit about cooking and eating artichokes. Artichokes are low in calories (about 75 calories for an entire large artichoke) and contain potassium and vitamin C along with a good amount of dietary fiber (over 8 g in a large artichoke). Where the extra calories can sneak in, is in the sauce that is typically served alongside the artichoke for dipping. Nowadays, I serve a simple balsamic vinaigrette as the dipping sauce; if you serve melted butter, hollandaise or mayonnaise instead, you will significantly add to the calories you gain from this dish.
To cook and eat an artichoke, homestyle:
1. Rinse the artichokes carefully under water to remove any surface dirt.
2. Cut off the stem and place in large pot with about ½ inch of water. If you don’t cook them immediately, the cut part will turn brown when it is exposed to the air – spread a little lemon juice on the base if desired, to preserve the color.
1. If you are planning a more formal presentation of the artichokes, for example if you are serving them to guests, pull off the first layer of the tough outer leaves and/or cut the thorny tips off the leaves before cooking and brush with a little lemon juice to prevent discoloration. When I am serving artichokes at home, I usually don’t bother with this step.
2. Cover and cook on medium -high heat for 30-45 minutes until the artichokes are soft and you can easily pull off a leaf.
3. Periodically, add more water to the pot as it will quickly boil off if you aren’t careful. I typically set a timer for 10-15 minutes to remind myself to check, and even so, have had many close calls over the years.
4. Serve with the sauce of your choice and provide an extra bowl on the table for the discarded leaves.
To eat an artichoke:
1. Gently pull off the leaves, and pull the bottom fleshy part of the leaf through your slightly clenched teeth to strip off the “meat”. Throw away the rest of the leaf.
2. Continue to pull off the leaves one by one and enjoy, until the artichoke looks like this.
3. Using a small knife or spoon, gently remove the top part of the artichoke which includes the “choke” hairs and discard.
4. Be careful to remove and discard the “choke” hairs that are inside.
5. When the top is removed, you are left with the heart. Enjoy this last delicious morsel.