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A pleasure leaf by leaf – until the tender heart
Preparation of this oversized bud takes a little practice, but a patient chef is rewarded with fleshy, tart leaves and a buttery soft artichoke heart.
As with Gretchen’s love oracle (“He loves me, he loves me not”), artichoke leaves are best relished one by one. Dip briefly into a tasty dipping sauce, nibble the flesh off the base, and on to the next leaf. At the end, the delicious base of the artichoke (better known as the artichoke heart) is revealed. The flowering vegetables aren’t only to be enjoyed with dip. With their tart-bitter, lightly nutty and sometimes even sweet flavour, they also taste great as a pizza or vegetable tart topping, in a pasta dish, or stuffed and baked.
|Calories||52 kcal per 100g|
|Nutrients||8.1g carbohydrate, 2.4g fibre, 0.2g fat, 3.3g protein per 100g|
|Storage||in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp dish towel|
|Shelf life||a few days in the refrigerator|
Whether small or large, every artichoke contains the bitter substance cynarin, which is responsible for its subtle bitter taste. Thanks to their low calorie content, you can enjoy artichokes guilt-free, at least if the dip isn’t too calorific. Only those with hyperkalaemia, i.e. high potassium levels in the blood, should avoid artichokes since they contain relatively high levels of potassium. Otherwise this mineral is important for a healthy body.
The artichoke was already considered a delicacy by the Egyptians and Romans. Today, artichokes are still grown mainly around the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, among others, the USA and Argentina export artichokes to Europe. Whether with green or violet leaves, as a small tender bud or large flower head that weighs up to 500 grams, in Switzerland, artichokes are in season between July and October. But they are also available outside the high season.
Pay close attention to freshness when buying. In particular, the stalk must be full and firm and the leaves should be close together and not dry. The stem acts as a water reservoir: the longer it is, the longer you can store the artichoke in the fridge. However, don’t wait more than a few days before preparing it.
The tender leaves and the artichoke heart in particular are something that you have to earn. However, there are some techniques with which you can best cut and cook the artichoke.
Tip: Wear gloves during preparation because artichoke juice stains easily. Also, always have lemon juice ready to rub on the cut surfaces. Otherwise the artichoke will quickly turn unappetisingly brown.
· After washing, break the stem over the edge of a table directly at the base of the artichoke.
· Then remove the hard outer leaves.
· Cleanly cut off the last remnants of the leaves at the bottom.
· Cut off about a third of the upper leaf tips.
· Now you can boil the entire artichoke for about 35 to 40 minutes in lightly salted lemon water.
· The artichoke is ready when the leaves pull off easily.
If you only need the artichoke bottoms, you can separate all the leaves from the bottom with a smooth cut before cooking. The fibrous, inedible choke is then scraped off the artichoke base with a spoon, resulting in flat bowls that you can fill.
The artichoke is popular as finger food and as an appetiser, either pure or with a dip or vinaigrette. To eat it, pluck single leaves from the bud and pull off the lower fleshy end with your teeth. For even more intense aromas, you can put the whole artichoke on the grill after boiling it.
The sliced artichoke heart is particularly suitable as a topping for pizza or a vegetable tart. Young small artichokes also work well, although they’re not always available everywhere. Their great advantage is that they can be cooked and eaten whole since they’re very soft and don’t yet have any choke inside.
Tip: A lot of waste is produced while preparing artichokes. Having said that, the stalk and leaves can be used to make a stock if you only want to use the heart.
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