Thursday, February 17, 2011

Artichokes in Olive Oil

I have to start by making a sincere confession: I had not eaten a single artichoke in my life until my late 30's!.. How stupid was I !.. When I was a child, I was that picky eater who already knew what she liked and did not like before even tasting them once. And artichoke was one of those foods I would not even approach; now I know I was so unfair to artichokes and to all the great cooks around me who have been cooking this dish all these years..:)

The special thing about this dish is that when you cook artichoke or any vegetable in olive oil, olive oil truly brings out the unique flavor of that particular vegetable (Olives: A tree... A fruit... Its golden oil... And a lovely cuisine...).
Also important is that in Turkish and Greek cuisines, when cooking veggies in olive oil, there's always a small amount of sugar added which works as a catalyst to help olive oil do its job.
Some people add just a little or no lemon juice to this dish while cooking and then squeeze some more on top when they eat it; I prefer adding a lot of lemon juice and having the artichokes absorb the entire lemon flavor during the cooking process.

I should also admit, though, that artichoke is one of those polarizing vegetables; you either love it or hate it. When people see artichoke with its tough armor, they hesitate to pick it up. Although nowadays you do not have to peel and clean artichokes, and you can find ready-to-cook canned or frozen artichoke hearts and bottoms in grocery stores, most people still do not care to try it. (If you prefer fresh artichokes and are willing to peel and clean them yourself, check out this video.)

Come on, people! Give artichoke a chance! You would not want to wait for more than 30 years like I did to realize you are missing on a great culinary delicacy...

Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced (1 small)
  • 1/2 cup carrot, diced (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup potato, diced (1 small)
  • 1/2 cup green peas, frozen or canned
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (1/4 + 1/4)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Two 14 oz-cans artichoke bottoms (Recommended brand: Fanci Food) OR One 16 oz-package frozen artichoke bottoms OR 8 to 12 fresh artichoke bottoms
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup=4 tablespoons fresh dill, coarsely chopped (2 tbsp+2 tbsp)

  • Heat olive oil in a 12" or larger pan (or shallow pot) that has a lid over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, potato and peas (if using frozen peas). Add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Saute until almost fork tender (do not cook completely, since they will continue cooking with the artichokes later on). Remove vegetables from pan to a plate; set aside.
  • Place artichoke hearts in the pan as a single layer. (If using canned peas, drain and add them to the mixed sauteed veggies at this point.) Fill artichoke bottoms with the mixed veggies. Scatter any remaining veggies in the pan around the artichokes. Pour any remaining oil that's left in the veggie plate over the artichokes.
  • Pour juice of 1 lemon over the artichokes. Sprinkle with sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour 1/2 cup hot water into the pan, between the artichokes (not over them!). Sprinkle with half of the chopped dill.
  • Cover the lid; bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to low and simmer until artichokes are fork tender (fresh or frozen artichokes take a bit longer to cook than canned ones).
  • Let it completely cool down to room temperature before serving. Garnish with remaining chopped dill and serve cold or at room temperature.

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