The Antioxidant-Rich Artichoke

Last week's lovely spring weather in Vancouver has me thinking of all of my favorite, fresh fare! You see, I have a thing for food. Not in a fancy or complicated way but in a simple, fresh and yummy way. One of my favorite appetizers for spring/summer is whole artichoke. It is one of the easiest things to throw on the outdoor table and people love it. It is light and an easy share item that can be casually picked at while chatting away.

Because of their tough exterior, artichokes take some careful preparation. But your efforts will reap nutritional rewards! This veggie is a good source of folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Artichokes are also packed with antioxidants and they're number 7 on the USDA's top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list.

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How to pick a good artichoke (according to RealSimple) and my steps for preparing:

  1. Make sure the artichoke leaves are intact

    When choosing your artichokes, look for tightly-packed leaves; splayed leaves are a sign your vegetables is less than fresh. A couple of brown spots, however, are fine.

  2. Trim the top

    Using a knife with a serrated edge, slice off the top half inch for a nice flat surface.

    Tip: Artichokes are very tough. If you don’t have a sharp knife, one with a serrated edge will do the trick.

  3. Trim the remaining thorns with scissors

    Hold the artichoke by the stalk and use kitchen scissors to snip the pointy tips from the remaining leaves. (optional)

  4. Slice off the stem

    The stem is edible (and delicious), but if you plan to serve artichokes upright on the plate, slice it off with your knife.

    Tip: Refrigerate unwashed artichokes in a plastic bag. A fresh artichoke will keep for up to a week. If the leaves begin to spread, cook it as soon as possible.
  5. Place artichoke in about an inch or two of salted water. Drizzle with olive oil, cover and bring to a boil.

  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 45 minutes, being careful not to let the water boil away.

  7. Artichoke is done when the leaves are tender and pull off easily.

I prefer the simplest version: simply steamed/boiled in salted water with a drizzle of olive oil, served with a side of good ol' mayo. Pull stem from artichoke, dip in mayo and slide the fleshy part of the artichoke off with your teeth. In my opinion, this is best enjoyed with a crisp Chardonnay...can you tell I like my white wine when the weather turns warmer?

After you've polished off all of the good leaves, don't forget there's more in store: the heart of the artichoke! So good. Here's how to get to it:

Other variations include drizzling with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or dipping in homemade garlic aioli sauce. Yum. Now to eat. Enjoy lovelies!