When I want to make a party feel special without being expensive, I make steamed artichokes. They are relatively cheap, yet sculptural and forbidding. They give a meal a dramatic quality. I love sharing food experiences, and artichokes are a particularly fun because it’s not clear how eat them. They are also are eaten slowly giving plenty of time for conversation as the leaves are peeled away. Whether your friends are just discovering the joy of nibbling on leaves, or are debating sauces; it’s memorable. Also compared to most decadent foods, its a healthy treat.
Globe artichokes are thistles; flowering plants with sharp barbs on their leaves. Both unusual and and intimidating, they add an exotic quality to any table. Unlike most fruits and vegetables, it takes research or experience to know what to do with them.
Health Benefits of Steamed Artichokes
Artichokes have many healing properties. Although it is the heart of the vegetable that is most often eaten, it’s the leaves that contain many of its most powerful nutrients. Artichokes are high in antioxidants which helps prevent cancer. It’s benefits are also correlated with fighting cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation and cholesterol levels. Additionally artichokes are a good source of fiber which contributes to weight loss and helps control diabetes. Artichokes also detoxify the liver and digestive system, and are high in iron, which prevents anemia.
How to Cook Steamed Artichokes
Cooking artichokes starts with getting fresh produce. Choose an artichoke that looks fresh and green, not dried out. The best choices have closed petals and feel heavy for their size. Artichokes stay fresh for a week in an air-tight plastic bag, if kept in the refrigerator. When ready to use, rinse the artichoke thoroughly under cold water and pull off any brown outer petals. Using a serrated knife, cut an inch off the top and trim off the stem. If thorns remain on any leaves, trim them with scissors. Finally, pull the leaves slightly away from each other, and rinse it with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
Steaming is my favorite way to prepare artichokes because it preserves the vegetable’s nutrients and antioxidants. Put a steamer basket in a sauce pan and fill it with an inch or two of salted water until it reaches just under the basket. Put the artichokes into the basket, stem end up, then cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes, Test for doneness. It’s ready when an outer leaf is easily removed and a knife can slide into the stem.
Eating an artichoke is exciting. The goal is to reach the heart. First pull off a leaf. Then eat the protruding bottom flesh of the leaf, by scraping it against your teeth. After the eatable leaves have all been removed, cut off the tiny thistle leaves to reveal the heart. Finally, slice and eat the heart. I have to admit to a lifelong fondness for this ritualistic process. Always a slow eater, it perfectly suited my small appetite.
Steamed Artichoke Sauces
Artichokes are good hot, warm, or cold. If I am serving them hot, my favorite sauce is definitely melted butter with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. However, when I make them for party, I want to be able to prepare them in advance. Cold or room temperature artichokes are better with a cool sauce. Here are some of my favorites. Garlic aioli is always the dip of choice in my house. If you have an immersion blender make The Food Lab’s Two Minute Aioli Recipe. For a healthy vinaigrette make Martha Rose Shulman’s, Vinaigrette Dipping Sauce from the New York Times or try The Spruce’s spicy healthy Toasted Cumin Yogurt Dip. What’s your favorite sauce? Make a few and have fun sharing.
The next time you’re having friends over for a sporting event use the menu from my post, Why you Want Easy Baked Ribs for Your Super Bowl Party.
Healthy Weeknight Meals