Sunday, August 2, 2009

Exciting Vegetable of the Week


What is it? Artichokes are from the thistle family and if left on their stalk, bloom into a beautiful purple flower.

Why should I eat it?Because dear reader, they are so very good for you. The thistle family has been celebrated for its unique detoxifying abilities for centuries. Your liver will love this vegetable and due to its anti-inflammatory properties, your sore muscles and joints will thank you too.

How should I cook it? Boil, grill or broil.
  • Boil...Set a large pot of water up to boil. Snip off the tips of each leaf, and chop the top of the artichoke off (the goal is to "open" the center, length varies .25"-1" depending on the shape). Make sure the stem is trimmed close to the base. When the water is boiling, place artichokes base up in the water and cover, turning the heat down to a simmer. Let boil for approximately 30-45 minutes. When the leaves can be easily separated out from the artichoke, they are ready. Place on a cloth or paper towel base up to drain and cool.

  • Grill...Trim the artichoke as instructed above. Slice the artichoke vertically. Take a melon baller or spoon and scoop out the "choke" or the densely packed sharp leaves at the center. This can make a mess, so don't get too hasty! Coat the inside of the artichoke with olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using a medium fire grill, transfer the artichokes cut side up and grill for 10 minutes. Flip them and cook cut side down for 5 minutes. Viola!

  • Broil...Follow prep instructions above for grilling, only dunk them in water with lemon juice to avoid turning them brown. Make a bowl of olive oil, salt and pepper to coat the artichokes. Pull them out of the lemon water, pat dry and coat them up in the olive oil mixture. Place cut side down on foil and place in the broiler for 5-7 minutes. Make sure that you don't have them too high up or they will burn. Flip over and cook for another few minutes.

  • Now what? When I was growing up, I dipped artichokes in mayo or clarified butter (YUM), but given that I'm off the dairy what are my choices?
  • Olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and red pepper flakes.

  • Roasted red peppers pureed with garlic and olive oil

  • Sun dried tomato pesto (minus the cheese)= olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic

    The meaty part at the base of each artichoke leaf is what you are aiming for. Dip the base in sauce and scrape off with your teeth. Then feel free to melt into a pile of happiness. Yum.

    How does this fit in with the Zone?
    One medium sized artichoke is 1 block of carbohydrate, and plenty for one person to eat. If you are running low on allotted carb blocks by the end of the day, artichokes are a perfect fit.

    Feel free to send in your thoughts and any other recipe suggestions you would like to add. If you decide to take the plunge and give artichokes a spin this week, let me know what you think!
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