Artichoke : The native of the Mediterranean Sea

Ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. In Ancient Greece, the artichoke was attributed to being effective in securing the birth of boys.

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It has such a wonderful mauve color.  Not many people know that the fields of the Peloponnese region produce many thousands of tons of artichokes for the international market, and Greece is the world's seventh largest producer. The main areas where artichokes have managed to make their way into Greek cuisine are the Dodecanese and the Ionian Islands.  When preparing artichokes, it is important to trim the stem, remove the tough outer leaves and trim the ends of the leaves. Since the cut edges turn brown quickly, rub edges with half of a fresh lemon to prevent discoloration. Once cooked, they should be eaten within 24 hours.

The artichoke (Cynara scolymus), like cauliflower and broccoli, is grown for its flower heads, in other words it is the closed flower bud that is eaten, either whole or in part. It is usually the flower head base and the fleshy parts of the scales, which overlap each other like roof tiles and surround the base, that are eaten. This means that barely 20 percent of the flower head is edible. When preparing artichokes, the woody stalk should be completely removed. 

Artichokes, which are sensitive to frost, thrive primarily in the warm climate of the Mediterranean region. All plantings of this thistle-like herbaceous plant, which grows nearly 7 feet (2 meters) tall, need to be rejuvenated roughly every four years, as yield declines with age. In the most cases only the artichokes hearts are used in the kitchen. They are usually served with olive oil, plenty of lemon juice, fresh herbs, and also with fresh fava beans. But in the last years more and more people discovered the upper side of the hard leaves too and used to eat artichoke leaves for healthy reason. They say, it helps patients who suffer under high cholesterol.

I wish you kali orexi!

Lamb with artichokes

2/3 cup/150 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs/1 kg shoulder lamb, diced
5 cups finely chopped onion
8 small artichokes
2 eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
Freshly ground white pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pan. First brown the meat, then add the onions and soften. Season with salt and pepper, then add a generous 2 ¾ cups/700 ml water. Lower the heat and braise the meat until tender. Cut back the artichoke stems to ¾ in (2 cm). Remove the tough outer leaves and cut off the tips of the inner leaves. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon juice. Leave for 25-30 minutes, then place the artichokes, stem up, in the pan, adding more hot water if necessary, and cook for 10-15 minutes over a constant low heat. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Break the eggs into a bowl and beat until frothy. Add the lemon juice and some of the cooking liquid, beating continuously. Add the egg and lemon sauce to the braised meat, ladling slowly until it is incorporated, sprinkle with dill, and serve with freshly baked white bread.


Stuffed artichoke hearts

4 large artichokes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp all-purpose flour, combined with a little water
½ cup/125 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar
1 egg, hard-cooked
4 green olives

For the filling:
½ lb/200 g fish filet of your choice,  poached, and finely chopped
1 tbsp brandy
2 tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
2 anchovy filet, finely chopped
2/3 cup/150 g mayonnaise
1 tsp capers, finely chopped

Remove the stalks, outer leaves, and top two thirds of the artichokes. Peel the bases (removing all the dark green parts), place in a bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice, cover with water, and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Pour some water in a pan, add the salt and the flour and water mixture, and bring to the boil. Add the artichoke bases and cook until the inner leaves come away easily. Leave to cool, then, using a spoon, remove the inner leaves together with the choke. Beat together the olive oil and vine¬gar and pour over the bases. Drizzle the brandy over the fish filet. Combine the chopped tomatoes and anchovies with the mayonnaise and capers, add the fish, then season with salt and pepper. Fill the artichoke hearts with this mixture and garnish with egg slices and olives.


When shopping for artichokes, choose the ones that are heaviest and whose leaves are closed or compact. 

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