Saturday, March 21, 2009

The mighty Artichoke...How do you eat that thing?

I often wonder who looks at a plant like this and says....hmmm that looks mighty tasty!

The Artichoke as it is called these days, here in my house at least, has had a long journey! I am told it started in Naples and from there traveled to Venice, where I am sure it had a lovely time floating down a canal in a gondola.

Artichoke them stopped by Chateauneuf du Pape (House of the pope, by the way) Maybe to pray...But I think it was drinking wine. Back in those days it was still small and young and was considered an aphrodisiac, a morsel that was preserved in a sugar syrup. While the French Artichoke bathed in Sugar and enjoyed some french wines, its cousins where being delivered to England by the Dutch. Ha!I knew this was a food of my people!

There the Artichoke lounged in the gardens of Henry the VIII at Newhall, these plants sure know how to live! Of course there is no place like home! So some of the Artichoke hitched a ride with the French and came to Louisiana others hitched a ride with the Spanish and came to California. I don't think it is a coincidence that both of those countries make some really good wine...The Artichoke obviously likes them some vino!

Today, nearly 100% of the US crops of Artichokes come from California. 80% of that in Monterrey County and Castroville claims to be "The Artichoke center of the world".
Now that the Artichoke has settled in what I like to call Paradise, I still think they are drinking California wine and lounging in the coastal sun, and why wouldn't they!?
Now that we have covered some history, lets get to the part where we eat the Artichoke! I have more that one friend ask me, "how do you eat that?" And "How do you cook it?" I can only speak for myself but I think the very best way to eat an Artichoke, is very carefully...
Over the years I feel I have finally mastered the Artichoke, not to say that sometimes it doesn't end up a bit mushy...some people LOVE their vegetables mushy ( I am not one of them). The simple way to cook an Artichoke is to steam it. So you just chop off all but about 1/2 and inch of the stem place it in a pot with a steam basket in it and about 1-2 inches of water. Do not let the stem become submerged. Place a lid on it and turn it on medium heat. Now just walk away for about 45 min. DO NOT remove the lid during this time, you are just letting the steam escape. Yes these take patience! After 45 minutes you may test the Artichoke for done ness, by pulling on a middle leaf. If it comes off easily they are done! If not keep cooking.....till done.

OK a quick lesson on eating an artichoke that is steamed. You simple pull the leaves off and scrape the tender meaty section off with your teeth...Not the pointy end! Of course you will probably want to dip this into something first...I am getting there! When you run out of edible leaves, the purple ones are tough to eat...stop. The fuzzy part (the choke) is not edible, yes you will choke on it, you can scoop or cut it out. Then enjoy the BEST part! The Heart!

Tips! Yes we all love Tips! To speed up the artichoke cooking and eating process I like to cut them in half cut about 1/4 of an inch off the tops (the pointy parts), cut out the choke and then steam. This way they cook in about 30 minutes and you don't have to work as hard to eat them. I am all about not having to work to hard to eat my food!

The artichoke can also be grilled, marinated, stuffed, sauteed, and even FRIED! The hearts are great in salads, Pastas,cheesy dips and even risotto...there just isn't much this veggie can not do.

Now in my house, there are to types of dipping sauces, the Bur Blanc, and the aoli. The Bur blanc (my personal favorite!) otherwise known as the butter sauce. The easy fast way, is to put REAL butter about 1/2 a stick (yeah full calorie!) in a small microwavable bowl add some Kosher or grey salt, garlic powder and a squeeze of lemon. Yes you can do thit on the stove in a pan over low heat...if you anti microwaves. You may have to taste it a couple time so get it just how you want it. This is of course just one serving, so you will have to figure it out if its for a crowd! Then microwave for 10 seconds at a time till melted. DO NOT boil it, it will separate and is just not as tasty. Dip and enjoy!

The second; the Aoli, is really a flavored mayonnaise sauce. In my house it is simply mayonnaise with lemon and sometimes garlic.

So go forth and cook some artichokes! Nutritious and Delicious!

Artichoke, cooked boiled, saltedNutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 50 kcal 220 kJ
11.95 g
- Sugars 0.99 g
- Dietary fiber 8.6 g
0.34 g
2.89 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.05 mg
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.089 mg
Niacin (Vit. B3) 0.111 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.240 mg
Vitamin B6 0.081 mg
Folate (Vit. B9) 89 μg
Vitamin C 7.4 mg
Calcium 21 mg
Iron 0.61 mg
Magnesium 42 mg
Phosphorus 73 mg
Potassium 276 mg
Zinc 0.4 mg
Manganese 0.225 mg
Percentages are relative to USrecommendations for adults.Source: USDA Nutrient database

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