Sunday, June 05, 2005

Roasted Baby Artichokes Recipe


Eating an artichoke is like opening a present--getting to the heart is almost as much fun as "unwrapping" it. Like any good gift an artichoke takes some effort to get right. If it's a large artichoke it needs a fair amount of trimming, especially the spiky tips and outer leaves. Once cooked, you have to go through that unique teeth-and-leaf-scraping exercise to get at them. If you want to get to the real present, the prized heart, your chore continues as you have to trim away the fuzzy choke first.

While large artichokes can be stuffed, steamed, boiled, fried or stewed, growing up I only ate them steamed and served with garlic mayonnaise or melted butter and lemon juice. But when I got to Italy it was another story altogether. Isn't it always?

In Tuscany where I lived there were several kinds of artichokes available in the outdoor markets. But the little ones were really a treat. Now more commonly available in the US, they are not actually "babies" as you might think but a fully grown artichoke that matures when fairly small.

With baby artichokes, all the work is done upfront and you can enjoy your gift in a single bite. The trimming process is even more involved than with the large version. Because the chokes don't fully develop, small artichokes are possible to eat whole if you are merciless with the paring knife. After prepping and simmering I recommend roasting them briefly in the oven. The flavor is much more "artichokey" and the texture is terrific too, they stay moist but toothsome.

However you cook them, artichokes are very healthy as well as tasty. They are a good source of vitamin C, folate, fiber and a number of minerals especially potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Note: Rather than explain how to trim small artichokes, I will refer you to Ocean Mist where you can actually see it being done.

Roasted Baby Artichokes

Ingredients

2 lbs baby artichokes
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Once prepped, cut the larger artichokes in half, but if they are really small leave them whole. Place the artichokes in a pot of water to cover. Simmer artichokes for about seven or eight minutes or until tender, then drain them well. When cooled slightly toss them in olive oil and bake in a foil lined glass or metal baking dish, in a single layer, in a 400 degree oven for seven or eight minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Enjoy!