By Donna Zitter Bordelon
Nothing says love like … artichoke hearts. Artichokes were mentioned as a garden plant by Homer in the 8th Century BC. A variety was also cultivated in Sicily. Catherine de Medici, who is said to have taught the French to eat with forks, also ate artichokes with wild abandon. She is thought to have introduced artichokes to France after becoming the young bride of Henry II in 1533. During this time, it was scandalous for a woman to eat artichokes because they were considered an aphrodisiac and reserved for men only. Ha!
Artichokes came to the United States in the 19th century, brought to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. The artichoke, a healthy food, briefly became dangerous in the 1930s. Mafia crime boss Ciro “Whitey” Terranova, aka “The Artichoke King,” purchased all California artichokes shipped to New York and coerced NY produce vendors to pay his price for them.
Today, most artichokes are grown in France, Italy and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop. Artichokes are a perennial thistle variety of the sunflower family, and the “vegetable” we eat is the plant’s flower bud. This bud’s for you, if you like thorny thistle.
Artichokes are higher in antioxidants than blueberries, have more fiber than stewed prunes, and are low in calories.
BROILED ARTICHOKE BREAD
1 loaf French or Italian bread, cut in half, horizontally
2 6-oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup mayonnaise plus 2–3 additional Tbsp. to make a thick spread
In a small bowl, combine the artichokes, onions, 1 cup cheese and the mayonnaise. Mix well.
Preheat oven to broil.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange bread cut-side up on foiled-sheet.
Divide artichoke mixture in half and spread equally on the bread halves. Sprinkle with the 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese.
Broil bread for about 2 minutes until cheese melts and is slightly browned.
Cut into 1-inch diagonal slices and serve warm.
SAVORY ARTICHOKE STEW
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tsp. Thyme
¼ cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 can stewed tomatoes, 15 oz.
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Over medium-high heat, brown sausages well, about 7–8 minutes. Remove and set aside sausages. Pour off excess fat, leaving 1 tablespoon.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add the garlic, potatoes and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly browned. Carefully add the wine and cook for 1 minute.
Add the broth, tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, parsley, salt and pepper. Add the sausages and stir.
Let the stew cook and simmer, partially covered, for about 20–25 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
ROMAINE AND ARTICHOKE SALAD
2 small heads romaine lettuce, chopped
6 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 can black olives, drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
Parmesan cheese to top
In a large bowl, layer the romaine, artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes and red onion.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese shards on top.
Serve the above salad with the following salad dressing for a total artichoke experience.
ARTICHOKE HEARTS SALAD DRESSING
1 6 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, but reserve 1 Tbsp. of the liquid
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. light sour cream
Using a food processor, blender or immersion blender, mix together and process the artichokes, 1 Tbsp. liquid, lemon juice, oil, garlic, mustard, pepper and sour cream until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate.
Eat Well, Live Long, Enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)