Embracing the artichoke


Admittedly, there are a number of healthy foods I love but had no idea how to cook to them at home. At the top of my list of intimidating foods was the artichoke.

Who can blame me when two of its anatomical parts are called the choke and the thorns?

However, I made a commitment to embrace the artichoke because it’s full of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and other disease-fighting substances. Plus, it’s naturally low in fat and calories.

The first thing to know about artichokes is how to select them.

Choose heavy and firm artichokes with a healthy green color and compact center leaves. Artichokes range in size from baby to jumbo, or golf ball size to softball size. Watch out for the prickly thorns on the petals.

To prepare them for cooking, first rinse the artichokes under cold water. Then softly brush them with a soft kitchen brush to remove their bitter light film.

Cut about one inch from the top of each artichoke and one-quarter inch from the stem. Remove the whole stem if you need it to stand up for stuffing. Otherwise, keep the stem because it’s a continuation of the heart, and the heart is the artichoke’s most delicious and sought-after part. The thorns on the petals will soften with cooking so there’s no need to remove them.

With the artichokes prepared for cooking, choose your preferred cooking method. Artichokes can be steamed, baked, microwaved, sautéed, slow-cooked or boiled.

I prefer to steam them because it’s easy and most of the nutrients remain intact.

To steam, place the artichokes in a steamer basket with stems facing up. Fill a large pot with water until it reaches under the basket and cover the pot. Bring water to a boil and steam until a steak knife can cut easily through the base. This process takes roughly twenty-five to forty-five minutes depending on the size and number of artichokes.

Your artichokes are now ready to eat. You can enjoy both the petals and the hearts.

For the first, pull off each of the outermost petals and dip the base (the part closest to the artichoke) in your favorite dipping sauce (many people use butter, but a healthy and delicious alternative would be a ranch dressing made with Greek yogurt). Clench your teeth slightly and place a petal in your mouth while still holding onto the tip. Pull the petal through your teeth to remove the soft flesh at the bottom. Discard the remainder of the petal.

Once all of the outermost petals have been removed, you’ve arrived at the heart! Scoop out the fuzzy choke guarding it and cut the heart into bite-sized pieces.

Dip and enjoy!

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