I grew up eating artichokes-- grilled, marinated, stuffed, on pizza, steamed with fragrant parsley and garlic, as a tapenade-- it is hugely versatile. We even see it in Cynar bitter liqueur in Italy. This regal, sometimes rugged, bud is a species of thistle (Cynara cardunculus) and originated in the Mediterranean region. Globe artichoke were cultivated in Naples in the 9th Century but main producers today are in Italy, France, Egypt and Spain, but we have some great producers in Cali too!
The benefits of eating this slightly bitter bud is that it is high in antioxidants (silymarin, caffeic acid, and ferulic acid) and full of some great heart-healthy fiber. Great for digestion and a natural diuretic, the artichoke has bitter principles--cynarin and sesquiterpene--lactones that also lowers cholesterol in the body. It also contains Folic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and a bunch of B-Vitamins. It also contains some minerals like potassium, bit of iron and copper.
EAT if you Have:
When you pick an artichoke make sure the bulb is compact with no bruises- use fresh or keep in cold fridge for a week in a sealed plastic bag.
To prepare, rinse in cold water, trim away stem, but don't throw away-- cut it up and add to your recipes-- it is full of fiber too! If you want to keep your artichokes green during prep: squeeze some lemon juice on them or keep them in a lemon and water bath before you cook, particularly if you are grilling. To eat the artichoke, peel each leaf and dip into a sauce of your choice and scrape the flesh off with your teeth.
Fiorella's Artichoke Pesto:
1 (10 oz) package of artichoke hearts, thawed
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed down
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
After the freezer:
2/3 cup grated Parmesan (2 teaspoons per cube)
In a food processor combine the artichokes, parsley, pistachios, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Run the machine to finely chop all the ingredients, stopping the machine a few times to scrape down the sides. Then, with the machine running, drizzle in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Spoon into container and cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer. Freeze for 1 day or up to 1 month.
This pesto can be used to cover pasta, vegetables, as a spread on bread or as a dip!