Monday, August 29, 2011

Healthy Food Series: How to Prepare an Artichoke...

When I was a kid, my grandparents owned a trucking company in Northern California mostly hauling fruits and vegetables to market. One of the perks was that when loads were over weight, my grandparents were often the recipients of free, fresh produce which they shared with family and friends. This is how we got most of our artichokes. The rest came from the awesome farmer's market under the freeway in Sacramento. Once only available in the spring, artichokes are now showing up in stores in the not quite summer, not quite fall in between time we find ourselves in right now.

Aside from being yummy and just plain fun to eat, the humble medium sized Artichoke also boasts over 10 grams of fiber, only 1 gram of sugar and is loaded with minerals making it a healthy veggie and a great choice to complete almost any simple dinner. Here's the how to:

Wash your artichoke and cut off the top and the stem with a sharp knife.  (Serrated works a little easier, but mine was not clean at the time, so I muscled through this part with a chefs knife).  Peel off the tough bottom 2 rows of leaves off and squeeze some lemon juice on the places you cut and also on the end of the stem.

Peel the stem with a small paring knife and cut off the other end too.  This is a yummy part of the artichoke, so don't throw it out ...  :)  Be sure to rub lemon juice all over the stem too, or it will turn a gross brown color.
Put your artichokes upside down in a steamer with some water in the bottom. (My steamer is really small, so I put it in the bottom of the big pot upside down.)  Cover and steam for 20-45 minutes.  (Don't forget to add the stems.)

You can check to see if they are done by stabbing the bottom (where the stem was) with a fork.  Artichokes will be tender when they are done cooking.

Now that your artichokes are ready to eat, peel off a leaf at a time  dip it in your choice of mayo, melted butter or other sauce you like and scrape the edible part off with your teeth like this:

When you get to the middle the leaves are super tender and can be picked off in one clump and eaten in one or two bites... Just be careful not to take too big a bite because you may get some sharp tips in it from the very middle.

You will be left with a hairy looking artichoke heart.  So take a butter knife and gently scrape the hairs {choke} off  of the artichoke heart wiping your blade in between cuts on the side of your used leaf bowl.   Be careful not to cut too much of the heart off when doing this, because the heart is the best part.

Dip and enjoy the heart!

Keep it healthy, yummy and fun!

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