Keeping it Light with Artichokes

I don’t know about you, but following Purim, I’m feeling the need to detox (from sugar) and focus on light foods, especially veggies. One of the vegetables that goes down really well in my house is artichokes.

I remember the first time I ate an artichoke. I was about 8-years-old and was at a friend, whose mother had cooked them whole. They taught me how to pull off the leaves, dip the ends in sauce and eat their meaty tips. At the time, this was the most exotic food I’d ever eaten, and my memories of that first artichoke are burned into my mind.

I’ve raised my kids in an artichoke-eating home, so for them, they’re not very exotic, but they are well received. In general, I find that kids love them.

Artichokes Trimmed and Ready for Cooking

More and more, I get asked how I cook them, so I’ve decided that even though this isn’t the most complex recipe, I’d post how I cook my artichokes. And I’ve added my tips for sauces. What’s important is to trim the artichokes so you don’t have any sharp tips left on top – they can be nasty. This also reduces their size so you can fit them in a pot more easily. Once they’re cooked, I serve them whole, but I have also served them cut in half as starters to great success. I slice them carefully down the middle, cutting through the heart, place them inside up on a platter and drizzle them with vinaigrette dressing. Make sure to put an empty bowl on the table for the leftover leaves. For a starter, you can estimate a half per person.

So simple as can be, here’s my recipe for artichokes.

WHOLE COOKED ARTICHOKES 

Ingredients

6 large washed artichokes (when you’re buying them, make sure they’re not discolored)

4-6 cloves of garlic bashed with a knife or sliced in half (just to let the flavor out more easily)

1 teaspoon of dried basil

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Water (enough to go halfway up the artichokes)

How to do it

1. In a large pot, pour the olive oil, drop the herbs and garlic.

2. Trim the artichokes. Most online guides to trimming artichokes have you getting rid of most of the artichoke and leaving no leaves. SO here’s what I do…

a. With a sharp knife, slice the long part of the stem off just below the base of the artichoke.

b. Pull off any small, straggly leaves that are right at the base. Then with a good pair of kitchen scissors, and starting from the bottom layer of leaves, start cutting the tops of the leaves off, trying to cut them up to halfway down the leaf. Keep trimming around the artichoke, until you get to the top. The last few layers will be more difficult as they are clustered tightly together, so I just muster up some upper body strength and cut the very top bunch of leaves down all at once!

3. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze some lemon juice and salt into it. Allow the artichokes to soak in the water for about 5 minutes. This will get rid of any bugs that may be hiding in the artichokes. I have found that in the last few years, the artichokes in Israel are clean of bugs, which makes cooking them less stressful.

3. Place the trimmed artichokes in the pot, heart side down. Add cold water, making sure that the water comes at least halfway up each artichoke. Cover and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour. Test to see if they are cooked by taking tongs and removing one of the outer leaves. If it comes off very easily, then they’re cooked. If you have to tug at it a little, then leave them to cook a little longer.

4. Serve with a dipping sauce for dipping the meaty bottoms of the leaves in. Here are a few very easy options:

a. Take about 3 heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise (I use low fat) and mix it with 2 tablespoons of hot chutney.

b. Take about 3 heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise (I use low fat) and mix it with 2 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce

c. Serve it with a vinaigrette sauce: ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil; 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar; 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar; ½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice; ½ teaspoon sugar; 1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard; a sprinkle of granulated garlic powder; salt and ground black pepper. Shake together.

d. Any other sauce that you like!

Serves 6. You can serve this hot or cold.

Note: When you’re done eating the tips off the leaves, make sure to remove the hairs in the base of the heart. They come off easily with a spoon. Dip the heart in your sauce.

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