• Natalie Aley

The best way to cook artichokes.

In my opinion, an artichoke is completely underestimated in the vegan cuisine. Grilled artichokes are not so popular in other parts of the world, when in United States it’s a frequent guest on many American restaurants menus.


I don’t remember the moment I fell in love with this dish, but I remember the funny story when a friend was visiting from Russia and we ended up having a dinner at the Mediterranean restaurant. I was thrilled beyond belief to find the artichokes on the menu. Of course, I ordered them. My friend had already been surprised to discover I was vegan, so imagine his surprise, when the waiter brought me a “strange vegetable” and I sucked on its leaves...... Couple years later, when we met again and I remembered that story, he confessed that he was mainly shocked not by the fact that I was sucking on its leaves, but by the fact that when I was finished and I moved my plate away, I said “Gosh, I’m so full”




SO WHAT IS AN ARTICHOKE?


Artichoke is a variety of thistle native to the Mediterranean region. Artichokes are a significant part of the Mediterranean cuisine and are grown all over Europe, America, and Middle Eastern countries. Harvesting time is extremely crucial for this plant as it should be eaten when the bud within the head of the flower has not fully bloomed. Once the flower fully blooms the bud becomes completely inedible. How people came to the idea of cooking this beautiful plant remains a mystery but it’s the most “social” dish you can imagine! It’s perfect for a first date, or for a couple that loves cooking together. There is something about dipping the soft, warm delicious leaves into the yummy dressings, anticipating that the best part - the heart, the most prized portion - is yet to come. Having artichokes as an appetizer is the perfect ice breaker, not mentioning the nutritional value which I want to discuss below.


NUTRITIONAL VALUE


Artichokes are nutritionally rich with various vitamins and minerals. They are an excellent source of Vitamin B6, calcium, iron, folate and fiber. Artichokes health benefits includes


🌿 preventing cancer

🌿 support heart health

🌿 treat liver diseases

🌿 managing diabetes

🌿 lowering cholesterol levels

🌿 support healthy digestion

🌿 protects the bones

🌿 enhances brain function

🌿 support healthy gallbladder

🌿 slows down aging process

🌿 cures hangover

🌿 prevents viral infections

🌿 it is a good source of protein. The earliest records state that this plant was used for its medicinal properties dates back to the 4th century.


❗️ If you are not used to eating artichokes and if you are encountering them for the first time, they might seem a little intimidating! ❗️ The artichoke is actually the bud of a thistle—a flower. The leaves (called “bracts”) cover a fuzzy center called the “choke”, which sits on top of a meaty core, called the “heart”. The heart is completely edible (and amazingly delicious). The fuzzy choke is too fibrous to eat in regular artichokes, but edible in baby artichokes. (Nevertheless, I always remove it) All but the innermost leaves are tough and you have to scrape them with your teeth to eat the tender root. You can boil, grill, boil or stuff and bake artichokes. My favorite way is to staff them with spices and bake them in the oven. My boyfriend and I are vegan. We both love cooking. Making artichokes is my boyfriend’s specialty.... There is some manly energy about this plant, and the spices and herbs my partner uses are also such an obvious man’s choice.

Here are a few guidelines for what to look for when shopping for artichokes:


* Choose artichokes that feel heavy when you pick them up. If they feel light, they’re probably a bit dried out and not as meaty as they should be. * You will find various sizes on the market. Normally, the larger artichokes are more expensive, they are “meatier” (more tender edible parts) and they take usually longer to cook. I normally get the smaller one at Trader Joe's. Don`t be fooled by the small size! They are still delicious! * The leaves should be closed with just a little separation, not wide open. Remember an artichoke is a flower bud, as it ages, the leaves open up. So an artichoke with wide open leaves may be on old. * “Frost kissed” is a-okay. If an artichoke looks like it has been burned by frost, no worries. In fact, these less-than-beautiful artichokes can taste even better than those not touched by frost and often command a premium price because of it.

How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 35 minutes INGREDIENTS

10 artichokes

(Depending on how many people you are making it for. We love artichokes so much that we normally prepare around 10 artichokes for two people and eat them for couple days :) 4-6 cloves of garlic 3 packages of thyme 3 packages of rosemary 1 lemon 3 tbl olive oil Salt Pepper For the dressing you will need: 1/2 cup of vegenaise 1 lemon salt pepper

Cooking instructions: 1. Warm up the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit 2. While the oven is heating up, prepare the spices. Finely chop the garlic, wash thyme and rosemary.


3. Now it’s time to prep the artichokes.

4. Cut off excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems can be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. The inner cores of the stems taste like the heart.


❗️ The next two steps are optional and are mostly for aesthetics. After doing it for couple times, I came to the conclusion that it`s not really necessary and I opted for saving some time by skipping those steps.❗️


5.  Slice off the top of the artichoke: Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke. 6.  Cut of the tips of the leaves: If the artichokes have little thorns on the ends of their leaves, take a kitchen scissors and cut off the tips. The thorns soften with cooking and pose no threat to the person eating the artichoke.


And now back to the necessary steps.

3. Cut artichokes in two halves and scrape off the fluffy (purple) part. As shown in the video.



4. Rub the outside part with olive oil and inside part with lemon juice



5. Stuff the middle with garlic, rosemary and thyme as shown on the picture. Add salt and pepper to your taste.



6. Cover the baking tray with the aluminum foil, sprinkle a little bit of olive oil all over the surface. 7. Place the artichokes on the tray face down.


8. Cover with the foil and cook in the oven for 15 min. After that remove the foil and cook uncovered for 20 more minutes. 9. While the artichokes are in the oven, prepare the dressing. Mix 1/2 cup of vegenaise, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper. You can pair up all kinds of dressing with your artichokes but this one is my favorite!


In the conclusion, it`s important to mention that there is no artichoke emoji ;( it`s so fabulous that there should be one!


The artichokes are the best to be served as an appetizer. I normally pair it up with a couscous, or a salad.


Again, remember it takes time to master this recipe, but once you manage to do it right, you will be craving it. This was our Valentin`s dinner, it was the most special meal.


If you liked this article, subscribe for more. The next blog will be about how to stuff your baked potato. Stay tuned.


Let`s connect on my Instagram as well @natalie_aley



Enjoy!!!




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