Kudos to the person who first came upon the artichoke and decided this bizarre-looking vegetable (actually it’s the plant’s flower bud) would be good to eat. Indeed, they are delicious, chock-full of nutrients and, with a bit of creativity, you can learn how to cook artichokes as a healthy, low-fat appetizer or side dish. Unfortunately, two of the most popular ways artichokes are served–either with an accompanying butter sauce or greasy stuffing–can really pile on fat, calories, and sodium.
But here are a few healthy, delicious ways to cook artichokes that won’t blow your diet.
First, prepare the artichokes for cooking. Rinse under running water, and remove any bottom leaves that are shriveled or discolored. Give the artichokes a quick dunk in a bath of acidified water — a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar for each quart of water — to help preserve their glossy green color. Then, using a sturdy, stainless steel knife (materials other than stainless steel or glass could cause discoloration), trim the stems so that the bottoms of the artichokes are flat. If desired, trim the tops flat across as well.
To boil, set the artichokes base-side down in about three inches of boiling water in a stainless steel pot. Adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to the cooking water will also help prevent discoloration. Toss some seasonings into the water, if you like. A bit of rosemary or thyme is nice. Then cover, and boil for approximately 25 to 40 minutes, or until one of the center petals pulls out easily. Drain upside down.
To steam, place prepared artichokes on a steamer rack a couple of inches above boiling, acidified water. Cover, and steam for approximately 25 to 40 minutes. As in the boiling method, the test for doneness is the same.
You can also cook artichokes in the microwave. Place prepared artichokes upside down in small glass bowl. Add a quarter-cup of water and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Microwave on high for six or seven minutes. The artichoke is done when you can stick a fork easily into the base.
With all of these methods, eat the artichoke by pulling off individual leaves and scraping off the cooked flesh with your teeth. Opt out of the usual butter sauce by preparing a low-fat dip or dressing. Using a base of yogurt can avoid unwanted fat and calories compared to sour cream or mayonnaise, while adding important nutrients like calcium and probiotics. Or, use your favorite store-bought, low-fat salad dressing. If you want to serve stuffed artichokes, spread apart the leaves after cooking and scrape out the fuzzy insides. Add stuffing as desired, in the center and between the looser, outer leaves. Opting for a rice pilaf or a low-fat seafood salad can prevent your stuffed artichoke from making you feel stuffed.
You can also grill artichokes, for a roasted, nutty flavor. Cook prepared artichokes by boiling, steaming, or microwaving, then cool. Slice each in half vertically, scrape out the fuzzy insides, toss with your favorite marinade, and grill face down on the barbecue for a few minutes.
Now that you know how to cook artichokes in so many healthful and low-fat ways, there’s no reason to exclude this lovely but bizarre looking vegetable from your table.
Source: California Artichoke Advisory Board