Getting to the Heart of the Matter with Artichokes

Did you know that in addition to its ability to seamlessly blend with other food, the artichoke is renowned for its health benefits? They are naturally fat-free with approximately 60 calories per bloom. The artichoke is a natural aid for digestion, and some studies have shown that its low cholesterol can help maintain a healthy blood sugar level. With a little practice and know-how, you can wow your guests by creating flavorful dishes that also have their health in mind.

Artichokes with leaves that tightly cling to its body make the ideal candidate for your shopping basket.

When searching for the perfect artichoke to use on your menu, keep these pointers in mind:

• Look for artichokes that have frosty-colored or golden tips.
• Make sure that the artichoke "feels" heavy - it's that retained moisture that adds weight and gives the artichoke its bold and balanced taste.
• Keep away from artichokes whose leaves are open as this indicates that they are over-ripe.

Try your hand at the various ways artichokes can be prepared. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the results!

Steamed Artichokes With Assorted Dippers

A classic method of preparing artichokes is to simply steam them whole and let your guests pick off the leaves to bathe in assorted sauces. Use plain white settings and create pools of olive oil with fresh basil, thyme, or sea salt floating across the surface of the plate. Invite your guests to mix and match flavors to see which combination suits them best.

Fried Artichokes

In this age of keeping a watchful eye on health and weight, fried foods don’t always make the cut. However, it is okay to splurge and have a little fun now and then. Artichokes taste amazingly delicious when fried. Use crusty bread to create a coating and season the crumbs to your liking with fresh herbs. With a side of seasoned fat-free sour cream, both the heart and the stomach will be pleased!

Roasted Artichokes

Summer months usually bring to mind the usual backyard barbecue fare. Why not be the talk of the party when you cater something out of the ordinary? Roasted artichokes provide just that buzz. Be sure to cut off the tips to avoid burning when they are placed on the grill. Marinating the artichokes in a balsamic vinaigrette spiked with fresh cilantro creates an appealing and intoxicating aroma.

Artichoke Casseroles

There's nothing more inviting than the aroma of a casserole baking in the oven. If artichokes are involved in the recipe, be sure to make extra because there will be no leftovers! Sautee the artichoke hearts in olive oil with some chopped mushrooms and onions, and soon noses around the neighborhood will be lining up outside to make reservations. Top the casserole with a Parmesan and Romano cheese crust, and you’ll have a healthy and homemade meal that even the most finicky of palates will enjoy.

The artichoke is a member of the same family as sunflowers and thistles. In addition to planning a menu around this delightful food, why not create a centerpiece where the artichoke is the main attraction? The personal touch that you give your table can create memories that last a lifetime.

Related Stories:
Artichokes: Six Easy Ways to Jazz Up Your Menu

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