If you love artichokes, but want to cut down on the nutritional benefits, you can dip them in mayonnaise or melted butter. That's what I used to do -- until I encountered the artichokes at Mint Café, a hip little Lebanese restaurant that went out of business last summer. The artichokes there were covered with an olive oil, garlic, parsley and lemon juice dressing that made the vegetable taste spectacular. I reluctantly abandoned my beloved mayo and started using the olive oil garlic dressing at home.
The concept went a little further when I discovered Lebanese stuffed artichokes, or ardishawki bi zayt. The more elaborate recipes for this dish call for several varieties of beans to be added to the ingredients used here, but I wanted to keep it simple. You use the leaves of the artichoke to scoop up the stuffing. This recipe turns a couple of artichokes into a very cool appetizer, and it's extremely easy.
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2 large artichokes 1 cup carrot chunks 5 tablespoons olive oil 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced Juice of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons capers Salt and pepper Red pepper flakes Parsley or fresh herbs, lightly chopped for garnish
Trim the tops and stems off the artichokes, remove tough outer leaves and cook with the carrots until the artichokes are soft and the leaves are easily removed. This will take 30 to 45 minutes in a steamer or 12 to 15 minutes in a pressure cooker. Remove the artichokes and carrots from the pot. Using a tablespoon and pot holder, scoop out the meatless inner leaves and the fuzzy choke, leaving the outer leaves of the artichoke in place.
Chop the carrots. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add the garlic, stirring to brown lightly. Add the carrots and continue cooking for a minute or two until well mixed. Add the lemon juice and capers and season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Spoon the filling into the center of the artichokes. Sprinkle liberally with fresh herbs or chopped parsley. Serve immediately.