by Chef Belinda
Many of us have been intrigued by the artichoke, but might have steered clear of it because we associate a lot of time and effort with its preparation. While artichokes are only in season from March to May, they are available year-round frozen and in jars and cans; which makes it a lot easier to incorporate them into meals. Very versatile, they can be stuffed, deep fried, used as a pizza topping, a good filling for quiches and frittatas in addition to the favored way of eating them, steamed and eaten one leaf at a time dipped in a butter sauce.
What you don’t know about the artichoke is that it is one of the oldest medicinal plants. Dating back to 4th century B.C., they are packed with healthy antioxidants. Cynarin, an acid present in the leaves and stems of the artichoke, is very beneficial in protecting the liver, reducing cholesterol, diminishing hypertension, preventing arteriosclerosis and acting as a diuretic, among other things. It is even reputed to be an aphrodisiac! So the more artichokes you eat, the healthier you will be. And did I mention that all of these recipes require minimum effort?
March 16 is National Artichoke Heart Day. Let this be the beginning of a healthy addiction!
Artichoke and Leek Salad
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 bunch leeks (about 3 stalks), washed, leaves discarded and bottoms sliced
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 14-ounce can/jar artichoke hearts, quartered, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh mint, chopped
- Parmesan cheese, shaved
In a small nonstick skillet, over medium heat, toast nuts about 2 minutes, shaking skillet occasionally until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
In a medium nonstick skillet, over medium heat, sauté leeks in olive oil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. In a bowl, combine artichokes, leeks and pine nuts. In a separate small bowl, stir together olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest and pepper. Pour oil-vinegar mixture onto vegetables and toss lightly until evenly distributed. Top with mint and shaved Parmesan.
Artichoke and Olive Dip
- 3/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves plus additional (for garnish)
- ½ cup green olives, pitted and pimentos removed
- 1 tablespoon capers
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts, optional
- 1 anchovy fillet, optional
- 1 8-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 5.2-ounce container garlic and herb cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Assorted sliced crusty breads
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a food processor, place pine nuts, basil, olives, capers and anchovy fillet. Add artichokes and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped (still chunky). In a medium bowl combine Parmesan and herb cheese and stir in artichoke mixture. Add a few turns of the peppermill and cayenne. Transfer mixture to a baking dish, large enough to hold mixture; bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil. Serve with crusty bread.
Chicken and Artichoke Stew
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 cups unsalted chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 pound frozen artichoke hearts
- 1 pound sweet potatoes or carrots or butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Kosher salt
- Grains of paradise
- Cooked couscous, or rice
- Chopped fresh cilantro, garnish
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add onions and sauté until tender and starting to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and next 4 ingredients and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, wine and lemon zest and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in chicken, artichoke hearts, and potatoes. Simmer until vegetables are tender and chicken is just cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and grains of paradise. Divide couscous among shallow bowls; spoon stew over and garnish with cilantro.
Belinda Smith-Sullivan is a food writer, personal chef, and pilot who enjoys exploring the “off the beaten path” culinary world. Her love of cooking and entertaining motivated her to give up a corporate career to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University. Now living in Aiken, she currently markets her own spice line called Chef Belinda Spices which can be purchased at www.chefbelindaspices.com. Recently she was inducted into Les Dames d’Escof er, Charleston chapter. Visit Chef Belinda at ylingfoodie.blogspot.com.