Summer vacation is traditionally when I try new things in the kitchen and focus my attention on a particular cooking style or ingredient.
Right now I'm experimenting with artichokes. Sure, I've made lots of artichoke dips before ... but from a can. Now it's time to learn how to use fresh artichokes. I've always been curious about them.
While artichokes might seem daunting at first -- all those stiff outer leaves! -- once you figure out how to get to the "heart" of this pleasingly green vegetable, you'll be well on your way to mastering the ingredient.
I, myself, am looking forward to some Artichoke Bread.
PREPARING AN ARTICHOKE
Arrange prepared artichokes, stem end down, in a large Dutch oven; cover with water and add 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 35 minutes or until a leaf near the center of each artichoke pulls out easily. Place artichokes, stem side up, on a rack to drain; let cool.
Arrange prepared artichokes, stem end down, in a vegetable steamer over boiling water. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 50 minutes or until a leaf near the center pulls out easily.
Combine water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in an 11-by-7-by-2-inch baking dish. Place artichokes, stem up, in baking dish. Cover with heavy-duty plastic wrap and vent. Microwave at high, 14 to 16 minutes, or until a leaf near the center of each pulls out easily. Rotate dish a half turn every 2 minutes; drain.
Source: "Healthy Cooking, From Health Directions, The Wellness Division of Lexington Medical Center," in Lexington, S.C.
CHICKEN, ARTICHOKE AND WILD RICE CASSEROLE
Makes: 6 servings
1 cup wild rice, uncooked
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 4-ounce skinned, boned chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon margarine
14 ounces cooked artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
3 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried whole rosemary, crushed
2 1/4 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry cherry
Vegetable cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse wild rice in 3 changes of hot water; drain. Combine rice and 3 cups water in medium saucepan; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour or until tender. Spoon into an 11-by-7-by-2-inch baking dish, coated with vegetable spray; set aside. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt, paprika and pepper over chicken, set aside. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, add margarine and place over medium heat until margarine melts. Add chicken and cook 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Arrange chicken in a single layer on top of rice; top with artichokes and set aside. Add mushrooms to skillet and saute over medium heat 5 minutes or until tender. Combine remaining 1/4 salt, flour and next 3 ingredients; stir well. Add to skillet, cook 3 minutes or until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Spoon over chicken mixture. Cover and bake for 55 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Source: "Healthy Cooking from Health Directions, The Wellness Division of Lexington Medical Center" in Lexington, S.C.
3 cups loosely packed grated sharp cheddar cheese
12-ounces marinated artichoke hearts (drained), finely chopped
6 soda crackers, crushed
3 green onions, finely chopped
dash of hot pepper sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8-inch square baking dish. Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix thoroughly. Turn into dish. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool slightly before serving.
Source: Ervena Faulkner's personal files
HOT ARTICHOKE DIP
2 cooked artichokes
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons low fat sour cream
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 drops hot sauce
1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add first 6 ingredients, and process until artichokes are finely chopped. Combine artichoke mixture and yogurt at room temperature. Stir well. Spoon artichoke into a 1 quart baking dish; sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve with French bread or breadsticks.
Source: Ervena Faulkner's personal files
Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition.