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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Grilled Artichoke

This is a beautiful vegetable. It resembles a flower and belongs to the sunflower family. I used to pass this vegetable by, every time I visited the grocery store. But the only way I had used it was via its canned form-the canned artichoke hearts. I finally saw this on the menu of a restaurant that is famous for its cheesecakes and decided to try it. Ever since that day, I have picked it up in the grocery section instead of passing it by. It's an extremely healthy vegetable, high in Vitamin C. Though many methods list a tedious way to cook it, the following method is a no fuss way to cook it, so that it can be enjoyed often.

1 Artichoke
2 tbsp white vinegar
salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large pot of water (enough to submerge the artichoke completely)
Dressing of your choice to serve with the artichoke

Take the pot of water and add the vinegar to it. Start to heat this mixture. To prepare the artichoke, cut off about 1 inch of the top of the artichoke. Remove the stem and peel it. Add the artichoke and stem to the water prior to boiling. Artichoke will tend to float but we want it to be completely submerged in water, so that it cooks properly. To achieve this, cover the artichoke with a small strainer or sieve and place a small weight (heavy plate/small vessel, etc.) on the strainer. Let the water come to boil and let it boil for about 20-30 minutes. To check if it is completely cooked, insert a knife into the base where the stem was attached. If it goes in without any resistance, then it is completely cooked. Remove the artichoke and the stem.

Artichoke, being from the sunflower family, has a center thistle surrounded by the green leaves. This resembles small needles and is not edible. It must be removed. To do this, cut the artichoke into two halves lengthwise (not along circumference). You will see the thistle at the base just above the artichoke heart. Use a spoon to scoop this out. Make sure that you remove all the needles. Now, use a brush and cover the artichoke and stem with a layer of oil and sprinkle salt. Grill the halves or you can broil it. Remove it when it has a nice grilled/charred look.

How to Eat this
Serve the grilled artichoke with your favorite dressing. Italian and ranch go well with artichoke. Peel off each leaf, dip in the dressing, and scrape off the pulp from the leaf using your bottom teeth. The bigger outer leaves are very fibrous and may not have a lot of pulp. As you work your way towards the center, the leaves become more tender and the amount of pulp increases. The bulk of the artichoke is the heart and the stem, which are citrusy and delicious.

The artichoke will start oxidizing and will turn brown as soon as you cut it. It's necessary to get it into the acidic water as soon as possible. The color of the artichoke will tend to change a little after it is boiled. It will turn brownish green. You can eat the artichoke after boiling as well without grilling.


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