I have a small confession to make: I've never had a real artichoke before. Even though I'm a huge fan of vegetables and I consider myself pretty adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, for some reason I've always been too scared of artichokes to buy any.
So this past weekend, I decided to it was time to change this situation and I specifically sought out an artichoke when I went to the farmers' market. There was only one stall that had them and at $2.50 per artichoke, they weren't exactly the cheapest vegetable around! But I didn't let the price scare me off and I picked one out to take home.
The main thing that scared me about artichokes was that I didn't even know how to eat them, let alone how to cook them. So I spent some time doing some research and learned that there are different parts of an artichoke - some edible and some not. For example, you can eat the "meat" at the bottom of each leaf, but not the leaves themselves. You can also eat the artichoke heart in the middle, but not the fuzzy "choke" at the very centre.
I also learned that you have to clean and trim your artichoke before you can start cooking it. This involves trimming the pointy ends off each of the leaves, slicing off the top and bottom, and scooping out the inner choke.
Even though it sounded like a lot of work just to eat one vegetable, I was determined to go ahead, hoping that the end result would be worth it!
Here's how mine looked in the steamer basket after I scooped out the choke:
Once the initial preparations were done, I had to decide how I wanted to eat it. I could have left the artichoke plain and dipped the leaves in a sauce, like many recipes call for. But instead, I decided to make a filling to create a stuffed artichoke.
Since I had some cauliflower in the fridge, I came up with the idea of a cauliflower stuffing. I've seen some recipes for cauilflower "rice" or "couscous", which is just caulilfower that's been pulverized in the food processor to resemble grains of rice. I thought that seemed like the perfect simple and nutritious stuffing for my artichoke!
The cauliflower couscous was really easy to make, and it was actually pretty fun stuffing it into the hollow artichoke and in between each of the leaves.
Once it's stuffed and ready to go, all that's left to do is place the whole thing in a steamer basket and wait patiently...but I can assure you, the wait is definitely worth it! I was so excited to finally try the artichoke and it did not disappoint!
The cauliflower stuffing was soft and moist and had just enough flavour without overpowering the artichoke. And if you've stuffed it well, then each leaf should have a bit of cauliflower on it that you can scrape off with your teeth along with the artichoke meat.
Of course, a big part of the experience is enjoying the process of pulling off each leaf and finding more and more of that delicious artichoke meat as you get closer to the center.
And when you reach the heart in the middle, you'll finally understand why people go to all the work of preparing an artichoke! The heart of a real artichoke is so much better than any you find in a can or jar - it's so tender and creamy and tastes amazing both on its own and when combined with the cauliflower stuffing.
The whole dish is made even better when it's served with a couple of lemon wedges that you can squeeze over the leaves and stuffing. Artichokes and lemon complement each other really well, so I would definitely recommend that you don't leave that part out!
So if you're like me and have never tried an artichoke, then hopefully I've convinced you to change your mind! And if you're already a fan of them, then I hope I've at least given you a new idea for a delicious way to enjoy them!
1/4 of a head of cauliflower, chopped (~1/2 lb)
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1 large globe artichoke
Olive oil (optional)
Lemon wedges for serving
First, prepare the cauliflower stuffing:
Roughly chop the cauliflower into pieces and add to a food processor through the feed tube, using the grater blade (this should turn it into finely chopped pieces). Replace grater blade with the regular blade. Add the shallot and garlic to the food processor with the cauliflower and pulse a few times. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside (you should have about 2 cups).
Next, prepare your artichoke:
Slice off the stem at the bottom so that you have a flat base and the artichoke can stand upright. Trim the pointy tips of the artichoke leaves using kitchen scissors and discard. Slice off about 3/4” from the top of the artichoke so that the leaves can open up and be pulled apart. Spread the leaves so that you can see the inside of the artichoke – the flowery, hairy part (the choke) is the part you want to scoop out. Use a small spoon or ice cream scoop to scoop out the inner choke. Once it is clean inside, squeeze some lemon juice all over the artichoke to prevent browning.
Prepare your steamer by bringing a pot with filled about a couple inches of water to a boil on the stove.
Meanwhile, stuff your artichoke: First, spoon the cauliflower mixture into the hollow centre of the artichoke. Keep stuffing, packing it down as you go, until you can’t fit any more inside. With the remaining stuffing, fill the inner side of each of the outside leaves, using a small spoon or your fingers to push the mixture down into the leaves. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the stuffed artichoke.
Place your stuffed artichoke into a steamer basket and insert into the pot of boiling water. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and steam for 30-40 minutes (once you can easily pull off one of the outer leaves, it should be done). Keep an eye on the water level and if it starts to get too low, add some more hot water to the pot.
Carefully remove artichoke from steamer and transfer to a plate. Season with additional ground pepper and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over top.
Begin by pulling off the outer leaves one by one. Use your teeth to scrape off the stuffing and the “meat” at the base of the leaf, and discard the rest of the leaf. (Note: you’ll notice that as you get closer to the inner layer, the leaves will have more white meat on them). You can spoon some more of the stuffing from the center onto the leaves as you go if you like. Once you get to the middle, you’ll be left with the artichoke heart, which is the best part – you can eat all of it, along with the rest of your stuffing!
This was submitted to Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert and Dogs.