I adore artichokes. Every part of them, from the outer leaves to the tender hearts. They remind me of being a kid because my mom always stuffed and baked them for my birthday. Tender leaves brimming with nutty bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. A quick slide across the teeth and my palate was in heaven. She also made chocolate cake, but that’s a different blog post.
You should love artichokes too because they’re loaded with nutrients, such as: Potassium, vital for maintaining normal heart rhythm, fluid and salt balance and muscle and nerve function. One medium artichoke provides over 400 milligrams of potassium (as much as a small banana). Magnesium, used for building bones, making proteins, releasing energy from muscles and for regulating body temperature. Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that protects the immune system and helps form collagen, which gives structure to bones, cartilage, muscle and blood vessels. Fiber (over 10 grams per artichoke), which helps maintain a healthy digestive system, lowers cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar, reduces heart disease and cancer risk and helps you feel full, aiding weight control.
Sounds like a multivitamin in a vegetable, right? After that stellar nutrient rating, it’s hard to believe that the best part might be the flavor! Here’s a recipe similar to my mom’s – stuffed and baked. So simple, yet so delicious. And for those who haven’t devoured the whole artichoke from start to finish, a few pointers (once they’re baked and ready to eat):
Grab the leaves and pull them up and out, away from the center. Put the leaf in your mouth and, through slightly clenched teeth, scrape off the tender flesh. Discard the leaf and grab another. When you’ve finished all leaves, you’ll reach the heart, the core of deliciousness. Using a spoon, scrape away any remaining fuzzy choke from the top, revealing the round, flat heart with a slight indentation in the center. I like to add a little sea salt to the heart but you can just dive right in.
4 large fresh artichokes
1 lemon, halved
1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Slice the tops off each artichoke, removing about 1-2 inches. Pull away any tough outer leaves and scrape out the fuzzy choke from the middle. Rub one half of the lemon all over the artichokes to prevent discoloration during cooking. Set aside.
Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a medium bowl and mix well. Use a small spoon to fill each artichoke leaf with breadcrumb mixture. Transfer stuffed artichokes to a shallow baking dish and add about 1/2 inch of water and the juice from the remaining 1/2 of a lemon. Cover pan with foil and bake 45 minutes, until artichokes are tender. Serve warm or room temperature.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 240, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Carbohydrate: 32g, Protein: 10g, Fiber: 10g, Sodium: 769mg
Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Takes 5” and “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.