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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Classic Steamed Artichokes with Alioli

If you are lucky, artichokes are already a part of your culinary repertoire. Artichokes are definitely on the wonder list of foods for preparing healthy gourmet dishes. For those unfamiliar with these versatile vegetables, their unusual shape can be intimidating. For beginners, I have included a detailed "how to eat an artichoke" section at the end of the recipe. The best way to get acquainted with these members of the thistle family is to start with the basic preparation. My husband’s steamed artichoke with alioli is a classic in our home. This elegant and simple recipe is a delightful first course for a formal dinner party, an evening date, or dinner with the family. Best of all, eating a whole steamed artichoke leaf by tender leaf encourages eating slowly, which helps stave off hunger and encourages healthy portion control.

For convenience, artichokes are commercially available canned, jarred or frozen. Canned, jarred, or frozen artichokes include only the heart, or the meaty center, of the artichoke. For salads I prefer jarred artichokes, particularly in a hot marinade. If preparing a dip, such as mayo-based artichoke dip, the canned variety is adequate and usually least expensive. For use in pastas or other main courses, I prefer fresh or frozen.

Tips for Selecting a Fresh Artichoke: Select an artichoke that seems heavy for its size. It should be green with no brown parts. It should not appear dried out. The stem should be firm to the touch, not soft.

Classic Steamed Artichoke with Alioli Dipping Sauce

Put a pot of water on to boil with a steaming insert. Cover with a lid. To prepare the artichoke, use a pair of kitchen shears (or a scissors) to snip off the point on each of the leaves. When the water boils, put the artichoke in the steamer and cover. Steam for approximately 20-30 minutes. You will know the artichoke is done when you can easily insert a butter knife into the stem. The artichoke should still appear bright green, do not allow it to steam until it is grey.

While the artichoke is steaming, prepare the alioli.

Alioli Ingredients:

A scant ¼ C mayo
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
a dash of lemon juice (approximately one firm squeeze from half a lemon)
a dash of salt
a dash of cayenne pepper

Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.

Serve the steamed artichoke warm on a large plate or platter with the alioli. The platter should have room for your guests to discard their artichoke leaves.

For the novice: To eat, simply pull off a leaf. At the base of the leaf you will see a small amount of soft artichoke meat. Dip this into the alioli. With the large outer leaves, the leaf itself is tough. You will put the leaf into your mouth and scrape the tender meat off the tough leaf with your teeth. Discard the tough leaf portion. When you reach the small inner leaves you will find the bottom portion of the leaf itself is also tender and can be consumed. After you have eaten all the leaves, you will find the downy part of the thistle. Gently scrape this off with a spoon. The meaty disc that remains is known as the heart. This portion is often quartered and shared. It is delicious dipped in the alioli.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The aioli was absolutely delicious and so simple to make! I tried this recipe with steamed baby artichokes and will adding this recipe to my rotation of party appetizers.

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