The Poor Artichoke: Shunned, Dissed & So Misunderstood! (by Chef Isabella)


My heart aches for the artichoke. This edible thistle plant is shunned, dissed and misunderstand.  I get it. Besides being a little on the ugly-side, a lot of people push their carts right past them in the produce section for two other reasons: 1) they don’t know how to clean and prep them and 2) they don’t know how to prepare or use them. If you’re one that strolls on by with your nose in the air,  quit hating! You’ll thank me!

First off, purchase some. (easy enough, right?

Secondly, once you get them home, prep them. With a sharp knife, begin by cutting the a good bit of the end off (not the stem). Then trim off the first couple of layers of leaves because they’re just way too tough to eat. Once you’ve trimmed enough of the thick, green leaves off and have reached the artichoke’s heart–the tender part of the plant that sits between the choke and the thick green leaves—stop trimming. Now remove the choke—the fuzzy stuff in the center. Just spoon itout and throw it away. Now you’re left with a stem (unless you want to remove that, too) and the artichoke’s heart—the tender, delectable part of the plant that sat between the choke and the thick green leaves. Keep in mind that artichoke hearts will oxidize—turn brown—just like apples once they’re cut and exposed to air. So, place a bowl filled with water and lemon juice beside your cutting board so that you can place the hearts in the bowl once you trimmed them.  If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, check out this video on how to prepare artichokes compliments of The Culinary Institute of America.

Yay! The hard part is done! After you’ve trimmed and prepped your artichoke, you’re now ready to open up your world up to these tasty little plants that you can do so much with.

My first piece of advice; Don’t underestimate the little ones. They require very little preparation (most don’t have a choke) and they are actually very good raw. I eat them in my salad, with some shaved Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and some salt and pepper.

The medium-sized ones are great sautéed. My mom would always braise them in some garlic, onion, parsley and a bit of olive oil. Then she would add some white wine. She kept them covered over low heat for about 30 minutes until tender. They’re unbelievably good!

Now, what about those gigantic artichokes, the ones we call MUMS in Italy? Well, you could simply boil or steam them once you prep them. Once they are done, plate them and enjoy by picking off a leaf, dipping it into a into a low PointsPlus dip and sucking out the flesh—the heart.

Some of my favorite dips include

• a mixture of a little olive oil, crushed garlic, lemon juice, oregano, basil and salt

• plain balsamic or flavored vinegar

• salsa verde

• a mixture of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt spiced up with lemon zest and juice, capers, a dab of olive oil, garlic and other spices, like salt and pepper or even curry.

Artichokes are also a great addition to soups and vegetable stews, too.  Just roast them in in the oven until nicely caramelized.

Next time you’re at the store, show the artichoke some respect.( IMHO, the canned ones really don’t cut it….you really have to go fresh!) The time you spend learning how to handle and prep them is time very well spent and just what you need to become an artichoke advocate!