Thursday, September 30, 2010

I heart artichokes

My favorite vegetable (its actually a thistle, not sure if that is a vegetable) is the artichoke. Its not the just the slightly bitter but still sweet and delicious taste, but the whole process of preparing and eating an artichoke that I find relaxing and somehow more civilized than any other vegetable. Its surprisingly easy, but does take a bit of patience to get to the good part. I like to steam mine and eat with an aioli or lemon butter sauce, getting down to the middle and then scraping out the choke to get to the yummy heart. A few months ago, The New York Times had a great dipping sauce and easy steaming directions.

2 large or 4 medium artichokes

1 lemon, cut in half

Dipping sauce, below

1. Lay an artichoke on its side on a cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife, cut away the entire top quarter in one slice. Rub the top with the cut lemon. Cut off the stem at the bottom, so the artichoke will stand upright, and rub the bottom with lemon. Pull off the tough bottom leaves (bracts). Then, using scissors, cut away the thorny end of each remaining bract. Rub the edges with lemon.

2. Bring two inches of water to a boil in a steamer or pasta pot, and place the artichokes in the steaming basket. If they are too big to fit, place them directly in the water. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes or until a leaf easily pulls away. Remove from the heat. Serve hot or at room temperature with a sauce for dipping the leaves. Use your teeth to scrape the flesh from the bottom of the leaf. Have a bowl or plate on the side for the discarded leaves. When you reach the papery leaves that cover the heart in the middle, cut them away along with the choke and discard. Divvy up the heart and enjoy.

Yogurt-Mayonnaise Vinaigrette

Traditionally steamed artichokes are served with drawn butter or with a mayonnaise. I use a vinaigrette-based sauce thickened with just a bit of mayonnaise and yogurt.

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

Sea salt or kosher salt to taste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, minced or pureed

2 tablespoon Best Foods or Hellmann’s mayonnaise

2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk together the vinegar, salt, Dijon mustard and garlic. Whisk in the mayonnaise, yogurt and olive oil, and blend well. Taste, adjust salt, and add pepper. Use as a dip for artichokes or other vegetables.

Yield: 3/4 cup

Not only is the artichoke delicious, but is also a good source of magnesium, potassium and fiber. I was reading this week that only 23 percent of American adults eat vegetables 3 or more times a day (and lettuce on a burger counts as a serving!). I probably fall into the veggie- insufficient catagory so will be upping my artichoke intake to compensate!

*image via flickr

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