Artichokes have been popping up at markets all over Europe this spring. They are one of my favorite “special” vegetables, so I’ve been buying them whenever possible. Prices have ranged from $1 to $7 per artichoke at different markets. Artichokes have such a wonderful sweet taste and the process of eating them leaf by leaf is so much fun. They are the best!
Interestingly, I find that some people are intimidated by making artichokes. There is definitely some technique involved in baking them well, but I find a traditional steamed artichoke is hard to beat and incredibly easy.
Seriously, here are the steps –
1) Buy good looking artichokes at the farmers market or grocery store. They are in season in the spring and summer and should be firm and green without any brown spots (there are also purple varieties, which are equally tasty).
2) Rinse artichokes, remove tiny leaves near the stem, and cut an “X” into the bottom of the stem.
3) Place artichokes in a pot to steam with about one inch of water in the bottom. Steam on high heat for one hour and fifteen minutes (be sure to check the water to make sure it hasn’t evaporated). You can add a sliced lemon to the water if you’d like.
4) Remove from pot and let cool for five minutes before eating with a delicious dipping sauce.
My favorite dipping sauce is a lemony-mustard vinaigrette. Mix the following ingredients together to make enough sauce for two artichokes.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard
Juice from 1 lemon
Dash of soy sauce
I like to give each person a small dish with their own dipping sauce to encourage double dipping!
In addition to being delicious, artichokes are quite healthy (especially when eaten with the vinaigrette dipping sauce instead of melted butter!). In particular, artichokes are packed with antioxidants. One study conducted by the USDA found artichokes to have more antioxidants than any other vegetable. Some of the powerful antioxidants in artichokes are quercertin, rutin, anthocyanins, cynarin, luteolin, and silymarin. Antioxidants are typically known for their cancer prevention and anti-aging properties, but they also have other powerful benefits within the body. Cynarin and silymarin are particularly healthful for the liver and have been shown to promote detoxification and regeneration of liver tissue.
So, keep an eye out for artichokes and don’t be afraid to give these prickly veggies a try!