As you may have noticed, I have always been fascinated by word origins, so please bear with me. The word artichoke originated from the 16th century Northern Italian dialect word articiocco, a variant of the Old Italian arciciocco, which in turn derived from the Arabic al-kharshof. The modern Italian word is carciofo. If you think the word artichoke is a strange one, have a look at some of the old English variants: “archecokk, hortichock, artychough, hartichoake”! May I offer you an arty-cough? How about a hearty-choke? 🙂

Having found this Italian connection by pure chance, I decided to post a recipe that I read in today’s AICR Weekly Health-e-Recipe e-mail, and add a couple of my own suggestions. My variation on the AICR recipe would be to cook your own (organic) artichokes instead of opening a can or jar. This is what I do: peel off the tough outer leaves, cut off the sharp tops, peel down the stems, dig out the choke, then wash and cut the artichoke into 4 or 8 pieces. I cut off, trim down a bit, and use the stems, too. You can then soak them in water with some lemon juice so they won’t discolour. Cook them in (just a little) boiling water together with cloves of garlic and parsley, as much as you want (don’t forget to eat the garlic and breathe on someone afterwards). I sometimes add a bit of lemon juice to the boiling water. Add salt and pepper, and, if you feel adventurous, a dash of red pepper (capsaicin, the MM-killer!), too. You can eat the artichoke pieces with a bit of extra virgin olive oil as condiment, or put them into a food processor with some freshly ground flaxseeds, the cooked garlic and parsley, and make a spread or a sort of pesto sauce to be used on pasta. (By the way, you can freeze the artichoke pesto to be used when this vegetable is no longer in season.) Or you can use the cooked artichokes as the basis for the more elaborate AICR recipe (see below). I would skip the mayonnaise, though!

Another simple idea: Italians eat artichokes in pinzimonio, meaning you eat them raw, dipping the leaves and heart into a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Easy!

AICR Artichoke-Scallion Dip with Herbs: 1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, packed in water, drained; 2 scallions, thinly sliced; Lemon juice, optional; 1/2 tsp. dried thyme; 1/2 tsp. dried basil; 2 Tbsp. low fat mayonnaise or sour cream; 2 Tbsp. nonfat plain yogurt; 1-2 tsp. spicy mustard; Salt, to taste; 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, garnish. In a food processor or blender, purée all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Spoon the mixture into a serving dish. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish it with parsley. The dip can be made 1 day in advance. Makes 1 cup. Per 2-tablespoon serving: 32 calories, <1 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 6 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. protein, 2 g. dietary fiber, 302 mg. sodium.

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