There aren’t many veggies we’d serve to our guests that come from a can. Vegetables don’t survive the canning process very well. I can think of only one: the undiscovered artichoke heart.
These are marvelous morsels of the best part of the artichoke with none of the bother of fresh, or the expense. Neat trick.
I know, you’re thinking artichokes, yikes. Fresh ones come in heads of finger-cutting leaves, often at $2 or more each, the weirdest of vegetables. Cook them just right or you get brown mush.
What we’re really after is the choke, or heart, covered with disgusting hairs hidden in the center of the bulb. It’s sweet and just right in everything from salads to pasta to stews to pizza.
The canned variety eliminates the cost and mess, offering a wonderful artichoke flavor as near as your pantry shelf. The price is amazing: six to eight hearts for as low as $2.
I’m not talking about the marinated ones in costly little jars of canola oil with a dash of oregano at twice the price. You can marinate your own from cans that taste fine at dollars less. Excellent antipasta.
My favorite brand is Gia Russa (http://giarussa.com). They’re already quartered, for instant use.
So you pop the quick-open top (this is too easy). Now what? First thing I think of is hot pasta in a sauce of olive oil, garlic and oregano, but this is just the beginning. Cook a double recipe, and save half for a cold pasta salad, adding pepperoni or tuna, cheese, broccoli, scallions and olives for an Italian picnic treat.
Canned chokes are already cooked, so in hot dishes, add them at the last 10-15 minutes of simmering. They only need warming. I adore them in stews of all sorts, or roasted alongside pork or beef.
How far can you take this? Quartered hearts are three-minute appetizers. Dry them on a paper towels and place on little squares of thin rye bread. Top with Gruyére or brie cheese, add a dash of basil and broil. Or bread and deep fry them.
I adore them on the grill. Oil a sheet of aluminum foil, fork-piercing it to let the smoke through. Grill them alongside your steak or fish for about 10 minutes. If you’re smoking chicken or a pork loin, smoke the chokes, too.
We enjoy shrimp or scallops (or both) sautéed in olive oil and white wine. A drained can of chokes flipped around with the shellfish makes the dish.
The only drawback is the canning process. It requires a high sodium content, 18 percent of your recommended daily allowance per serving. You can cut this by rinsing the chokes in cold water and not using their liquid in recipes. Otherwise, canned chokes are a rich fiber source with zero fat and cholesterol and only 35 calories per serving, hardly a diet buster.
Page 2 of 2 - In case you haven’t guessed, I love these things.
SEAFOOD AU GRATIN
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup white wine
1 cup milk
1 can artichoke hearts
16 ounces cream cheese
1/2 pound Swiss cheese, grated
1 pound salmon, bite-size chunks
1 pound crab meat
White pepper to taste
Melt butter and add flour. Stir constantly for 1 minute over low heat. Add milk gradually and stir until mixture thickens. Add cream cheese, a little at a time, stirring with a whisk. Add remaining ingredients. Cook 10 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Serve over rice or toast points. Serves 6 to 8.
ARTICHOKE PASTA IN WHITE SAUCE
1 pound boiled pasta (small shells, gemelli, rotini, etc.)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic (more if you like garlic)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup (or more) freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, minced
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
Gently sauté the garlic, onion and herbs in the oil (don’t brown), adding the pepper and quartered chokes at the last moment. Toss with hot cooked pasta and add cheese, or serve it on the side. Garnish with parsley. Tossing with a cup of steamed vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli, will dress up this dish. It’s also good with a can of flaked tuna. (Chill this recipe for a great pasta salad.) Serves 8.
MARINATED ARTICHOKE HEARTS
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic minced
dash of freshly ground pepper
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
Shake the ingredients in a clean jar and add the chokes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Keeps up to a week refrigerated. Use in salads and as a pizza topper, or as a chilled antipasta. For a hot appetizer, place in a flat cooking dish, add a cup of shredded cheese and broil until the cheese begins to brown.