In the mediterranean, artichokes are abundant. Unfortunately, they are harder to find here in North America. When you do find them they are a real treat. They make a delicious starter or side dish, are low in calories and high in antioxidants.
It is important to note that the whole artichoke is not eaten. Often when I serve this people ask me what to do with it. When properly cooked, the base of each leaf is tender. You can use your teeth to pull off some of the meat that is there. The top of the leave is spiney. This part is often cut. However, the purpose is strictly aesthetic.
Once the leaves have served their purpose, you will be left with the “heart” of the artichoke. There are some very fine leaves forming a cap over the heart. These are removed. Underneath will reveal the choke. This fine, hair-like centre is not eaten. Remove it. You will be left with the artichoke heart. After all that hard work, it is the reward.
Now that you know how to eat an artichoke, the preparation is much simpler. The stem is cut and it is submerged in water for 40-45 minutes at a slow simmer. As mentioned, the spiney ends of the leaves can be trimmed. This is a nice option if serving to guests because it looks nicer but it is not necessary.
You can choose any flavours that you wish to season the water. You can even choose to keep them plain but a nice combination is fresh garlic, a mix of dried Italian herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, marjoram), and some juniper berries. If you have white wine or sherry, throw some of that in. It’s delicious.
The artichokes will float so if you have a large metal pot where the lid has a metal handle, use it and place the lid upside down so that the top of the lid keeps the artichokes under water. Bring the water to a boil before adding the artichokes, then reduce to a simmer. 40-45 minutes later they will be ready. Let them cool before serving. They can cool in the water or you can remove them. You will know they are ready when the leaves come off easily.
For a dipping sauce, combine equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar (1-2 Tbsp each) and a small amount of Dijon mustard. Season with some salt and pepper and stir until the dressing combines. The base of the leaves can be dipped in this sauce and the artichoke heart can be eaten with it also.
Spanish Style Artichokes
4 fresh artichokes
1 Tbsp juniper berries
1 Tbsp mixed, dried Italian herbs
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1/3 C dry sherry
1/2 Tbsp coarse sea salt
1. Pour all ingredients except artichokes into a large pot of water.
2. Bring to a boil.
3. Add artichokes and reduce heat to a simmer.
4. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
5. Turn off heat and allow artichokes to cool in the pot for several hours.
6. Remove artichokes from water to dry off.
7. Serve with an aoili or, more traditionally, a vinegrette.
Calories 84 per artichoke
Protein 4.2 g per artichoke