Artichokes: Three Recipes to Enjoy in the Spring

Artichokes cooked with the stems on. Photo by Popo le Chien, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes have a long history in Greek cuisine. They are mentioned by Homer and Hesiod as far back as the 8th century BC as a cultivated plant. The wild variety of the artichoke, known as a cardoon, was also on the menu in ancient times, mentioned in the writings of Roman author Pliny the Elder. The following recipes remain popular to this day, including Artichokes a la Polita, meaning “in the style of the city,” i.e. Constantinople. Artichokes are celebrated in the places where they are grown, including on the island of Tinos and in the villages of Iria and Kantia in the Peloponnese, with an artichoke festival each year.

Steamed Artichokes

6 fresh artichokes

Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Greek extra virgin olive oil

1 fresh lemon

Spicy brown mustard, optional

Trim off the thorny ends of the artichokes with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Remove the tough outer leaves and trim the tough outer portion of the stems a little, leaving as much of the stem intact as possible. Place the artichokes in a steamer basket in a large, deep pot, fill with enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer basket, and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until a leaf pulled from one of the artichokes comes off easily. Serve warm or at room temperature with additional lemon juice, if desired, and/or spicy brown mustard for dipping.

Artichokes. Photo:

Artichokes a la Polita

8 artichokes

1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

5 scallions, diced

3 medium to large carrots, chopped

4 medium potatoes, cut in cubes

1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas

1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped

1 fresh lemon

Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Prepare the artichokes, by cutting off the thorny ends and removing the tough outer leaves. Trim the stem as needed and cut the artichokes in half, rubbing with lemon and placing the artichokes in a bowl of cool water with lemon juice added to keep them from browning. Heat about half the olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven until shimmering. Add the onion and scallions and sauté until translucent. Add the carrots and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, frozen peas, dill, and a cup of water. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Simmer until the vegetables are tender but not disintegrated, stirring occasionally. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

Potato, Artichoke, Asparagus Salad with Herbs

4-5 small to medium Yukon Gold potatoes

4-5 artichokes

1 pound asparagus

1 small to medium red onion, chopped

1/4 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon Greek sea salt

1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, thyme, or marjoram

Rinse the potatoes in cool water and place them in a large deep pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, add a pinch of salt, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until the potatoes are tender and a knife, fork or skewer pokes through without resistance. Drain and set aside to cool slightly before chopping into bite-sized pieces and placing in a large salad bowl. Prepare the artichokes by removing the outer leaves and cutting off the thorny end. Rub with lemon and place in a large deep pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, add a pinch of salt, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until the artichokes are tender and a leaf is easily plucked. Cut the cooked artichokes into quarters and remove their chokes. Add the artichokes to the potatoes in the salad bowl. Steam the asparagus just until their color turns a bright green, and add to the salad along with the chopped red onion. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the Greek extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, parsley, and oregano, thyme, or marjoram. Add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.