A perfect artichoke can be elusive. If it’s undercooked, it’ll be tough and stringy. If it’s overcooked, slimy and mushy. When it’s perfect it will be silky, creamy and hold together well.
Small artichokes really don’t get the love they deserve. While the large ones are delicious and great for entertaining, the smaller kind are easier to work with and much more versatile. They are tender and delicious, and usually even less expensive.
This recipe for pan roasted baby artichokes was born out of necessity. After a solid week of forgetting to buy the herbs I needed to make my usual recipe, my bag of artichokes were the last remaining vegetable in my refrigerator and I knew if I didn’t cook them they would soon go bad. So I started digging around my pantry.
Since I didn’t have parsley, I needed something else to season the artichokes. The only other fresh flavor I had was lemon, so I decided to use the zest as a primary ingredient. I also used pistachio nuts that I had left over from my Chard, Pistachios and Mint recipe, and some black quinoa (here’s my favorite brand) to make the dish more substantial.
I was completely unprepared for how delicious this turned out. I caramelized the lemon zest with some shallot, which gave the artichokes a sweet tanginess that perfectly balanced their creamy flavor. The quinoa added a beautiful contrasting color and an intriguing crunchy texture, while the nuttiness of the pistachios gave the dish a rich earthiness.
As soon as I tasted it I knew I needed to share this recipe. The second time around it turned out just as good.
Pan Roasted Baby Artichokes With Pistachios, Lemon and Black Quinoa
- 1 lb small artichokes
- 1 half medium shallot
- 1/4 c. shelled pistachio nuts
- Juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
- 1/2 c. black quinoa cooked
- 1/4 c. + 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
If you haven’t cooked your quinoa, start that first. Remember that it expands to four times its original volume when cooked, so you don’t need to make a lot.
Whisk 1/4 c. olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. Clean your artichokes by cutting off the top third and the bottom, then removing all the tough leaves. You do not want the artichokes to be stringy, so it is better to remove extra leaves than too few.
Cut your clean artichoke in half then submerge it instantly in the olive oil and lemon juice mixture. Artichokes quickly oxidize and turn black when exposed to air. The acid from the lemon juice will prevent this from happening. As you’re cleaning the artichokes and adding them to the bowl, stir the mixture regularly to be sure none are exposed to air for too long.
Thinly slice your shallot. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a deep pan on medium high heat. When the oil swirls easily in the pan add the shallots and pistachio nuts. When the shallots begin to brown, add the zest and stir. Cook the mixture for another minute or two until the shallots have almost completely caramelized.
Add the artichokes and liquid to the pan and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the artichokes so their faces are touching the surface of the pan and allow them to brown and the liquid to reduce. Stir the artichokes every few minutes until the liquid is almost completely reduced and all surfaces of the artichokes start to brown. If the pan dries before the artichokes have finished cooking, add 1/8 c. of water to prevent the shallots and nuts from burning.
The artichokes are done cooking when then are tender all the way through. At the last minute, toss in the quinoa and mix well. Make sure to scrape the caramelized bits of shallot and zest into the quinoa. Adjust salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Makes one main course or 2-3 side dishes. This would pair beautifully with roasted rosemary chicken.
Originally published April 19, 2010.
As much as I wish it weren’t true I know several people that consider the Super Bowl to be the biggest, most important holiday of the year. For most of us though, the Big Game is just another excuse to party.
The only problem is that at most Super Bowl parties, junk food runs the field.
If you have been following this blog you probably noticed that I am not the biggest fan of diets. But one thing I loathe even more than a regimented diet is diet food.
I mean, low-calorie egg rolls? What’s the point?
So I am not going to tell you to buy baked potato chips, unless of course you actually prefer them to the other kind. I am personally fond of Kettle Chips, but I eat them so rarely that if they are around and I feel like having a few I don’t worry about it. You shouldn’t stress out too much about things you enjoy.
On the other hand, you should clearly avoid putting down several bags of Kettle Chips (or anything else) on Super Bowl Sunday. But there are still a ton of delicious snacks you can enjoy during the game without doing too much damage to your health or physique.
Buy what you like, but try to choose most of your snacks from this healthy list:
- Tortilla chips – Despite my previous endorsement of fine potato chips, tortilla chips are probably a better option. They have slightly fewer calories, a little more fiber and, most importantly, have a better fat profile (more polyunsaturated and less saturated fats). These days you don’t have to worry as much about trans fat (hydrogenated oils) as you used to because it has been banned in several states, but it is worth checking the back of the bag to be sure.
- Salsa – As far as health goes, salsa is almost a perfect food. Tomatoes, onions, cilantro, limes and chilies are all great for you. Salsa is low in calories, has little to no fat or carbs and makes almost everything taste better. One way to improve store bought salsa is to use it as a base and add your own fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro. It really makes a big difference.
- Guacamole – Although it is high in calories, this avocado-based dip is filled with monounsaturated fats that are both healthy and filling. Make your own to avoid all the extra weird ingredients added to the store bought kind. Just mash up some avocados, squeeze in some lime and season with sea salt and pepper. My secret is to add half a cup or so of the salsa I made—this is a tastier way to enhance the flavor than those mysterious powder mixes. If you finish making it and it is still bland, add more lime and/or salt. A small minced garlic clove can be a nice addition too.
- Cut vegetables – I am grossed out by those slimly little bullet-shaped carrots that come in a bag, but real fresh carrot sticks are fantastic. If you can, get your vegetables from the farmers market the day before. This time of year you can find carrots, celery, bell pepper, radishes and daikon. The flavors of market fresh veggies will astound you and elevate this otherwise boring snack food into something divine. What a difference a real vegetable makes!
- Nuts – Nuts are one of the easiest, healthiest snack foods out there. It doesn’t even really matter what kind you get, they all have their own benefits. As usual, I recommend going with premium quality if you are going to serve them solo. I am particularly impressed with the value of nuts from Trader Joe’s. They are about half the price of nuts everywhere else and taste even better.
- Tacos – If you are serving a meal to your guests then tacos are a great, healthy option. Grilled meats (or veggies) are pretty harmless in taco-sized quantities. Use the small little corn tortillas (keep them warm and soft by wrapping them in a clean towel and leaving them in a low temperature oven) and serve cut up tomatoes, onions, cilantro (pico di gallo) and hot sauce. Authentic Mexican tacos do not have cheese on them, so just skip it. Your friends will love you I promise.
- Fruit – Everyone loves a platter of fresh cut fruit. This time of year we have all kinds of citrus and apples to choose from. Kiwis are in season too if you are looking for something more exotic.
- Steamed artichoke – Artichokes are bursting with antioxidants, and serving them whole makes for a beautiful snack that a room full of people can enjoy. Cut off the top third of the leaves, trim the remaining pointy leaves with scissors, remove the stem and steam it upside down in a covered pot. After 20 minutes turn it with tongs so the leaves are pointing up. Drizzle with olive oil, Meyer lemon juice, chopped Italian parsley and sea salt, and steam for another 20 minutes or until the leaves are easy to remove. With this much flavor you don’t even need a dip.
- Hummus – This Middle Eastern dip is delicious and much healthier for you than your standard Super Bowl party fare. Serve it next to those cut up vegetables. My recipe is here.
- Cucumber water – Even if your guests are spending most of the day by the kegerator, it is in everyone’s best interest to stay hydrated. Slice up some cucumbers and add them to a pitcher of water for a simple and impressive refresher.
What are your favorite healthy Super Bowl snack foods?
UPDATE: This article is also available at Synapse.