Artichokes: Raising Eyebrows, Lowering Cholesterol?
Courtesy of The Good Cook electronic newsletter:
A member of the thistle family and one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, the artichoke looks like a green pine cone. It has raised eyebrows ever since its introduction to the west from its native North Africa, and its popularity was once based on rumors that it has aphrodisiac qualities. Today it is thought to have various health benefits.
The artichoke historically has had as many critics as fans. The Roman writer Pliny, disgusted by artichokes, could not understand why people paid so much for them. Catherine de Medici, however, compromised her reputation by eating many artichokes at a time when they were believed to be an aphrodisiac. This attribute, never proven, carried into the 17th and 18th centuries, according to food historian Andre Simon; Parisian green grocers would snicker suggestively at the mere mention of the word "artichoke."
Artichokes often cause great consternation when served, because the only way to eat a whole, mature artichoke is to pick it apart with the hands and pull its petals through the teeth. But there is a long list of health benefits popularly attributed to the vegetable, with some studies suggesting that artichokes protect the liver from damaging toxins and help lower cholesterol. It has been scientifically shown that artichokes stimulate the gall bladder and the kidneys, though there do not appear to be any health benefits from this.
ARTICHOKE LEAVES WITH HOLLANDAISE
Makes 3 to 4 Hors d'oeuvre servings.
This old-time classic hors d'oeuvre is hard to beat.
What this recipe shows:
Microwaving is a quick, simple way to prepare an artichoke.
2 large artichokes, rinsed and stems cut off close to the base, sharp leaf tips trimmed (if desired), 1 recipe hollandaise (see below).
Wrap each artichoke in microwave-safe plastic wrap. Microwave one at a time for 6 to 7 minutes on High. Let stand 5 minutes. Push the leaves down to spread out and make them easier to remove. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold with hollandaise for dipping and a plate for the leaves, which are discarded after the edible portion has been eaten.
Makes about 1 1/3 cups
What this recipe shows:
Once the yolk-lemon juice mixture begins to thicken, it has reached a temperature high enough to kill salmonella.
Whisking in the melted butter over hot, not boiling, water off the heat prevents the yolks from scrambling.
Adding salt to the hollandaise after the ice cubes are added and the hot water has cooled prevents the yolks from scrambling.
4 large egg yolks
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon water
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, and water in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl resting over the top of a medium saucepan of simmering water. It is important that the top of the water be well below the upper part of the double boiler or the bottom of the bowl. Have the melted butter ready to drizzle in. Whisk constantly. The second that the yolk mixture begins to thicken slightly, remove the top of the double boiler or the bowl from above the hot water and continue whisking. Turn off the heat. Add four ice cubes to cool the hot water a little. Put the pan or bowl of yolks back above the hot water. Whisk in the melted butter, drizzling it in very slowly. If at any time the sauce looks as if it is about to break, remove bowl and continue whisking to cool it down or whisk in 1 teaspoon cold water. With constant whisking, whisk in the salt and cayenne. When all the butter is incorporated, taste and add more salt or cayenne as needed.
From Cookwise, Copyright 1997 by Shirley O. Corriher. Reprinted by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.