Once exclusively the domain of Mediterranean cuisine, artichokes have been gaining popularity across all concepts as an ingredient for warm dips, spreads, soups and salads. “The artichoke is actually a flower, not a vegetable,” says cookbook author Robin Asbell. “It’s the flower bud of a plant in the thistle family.” Asbell has some smart tips for operators who want to menu artichokes in a variety of dishes.
First question: Fresh or canned?
“Preparing fresh artichokes does involve a lot of labor,” Asbell warns. “If I’m using fresh artichokes in a dish, I try to add a number of other ingredients, so I’m not spending hours just on artichoke prep.” If you do decide to add fresh artichokes to your menu, she suggests turning the whole plants upside down in a steamer. “The base takes longer to cook than the rest of the plant, so this method allows them to cook more evenly.”
Asbell has several tips for chefs who want to skip the prep and use canned artichokes instead. “They do very well as a puree,” she says, suggesting that they use the classic recipe for artichoke dip as a grilled sandwich spread, in a quesadilla or as a substitute for alfredo sauce. “Canned artichokes are always great in pasta salads – just drain a can, cut them in half, and you’re ready to go,” she says.
Another easy protein pairing is to puree a can of artichokes with some good cheese and stuff the mixture into fish or a pork chop. “You’ll get sophisticated flavor and major impact with very little work,” Asbell says.
Hearts and bottoms
While canned artichoke hearts are a common product, Asbell suggests seeking out canned artichoke bottoms if possible. “It’s really the best part of the artichoke,” she says. “They form natural little cups, so you can do attractive presentations by spooning other ingredients into them. I love to sautée or fry them until they get crispy edges. It’s a concentrated flavor and a great texture.”
Little bitty babies
Baby artichokes, while sometimes harder to source, are also a great option for appetizers or side dishes. “More of them is edible than with mature artichokes, so you can get more out of each serving. You just trim the tips, steam, cut in half and sauce them.”
Lemon butter, Horseradish sauce and garlic mayonnaise are traditional dips for freshly cooked artichoke leaves. Make a no-fuss version with Marzetti® +1 Ranch Inspirations. Try Horseradish Ranch, Asiago Ranch or Chili Garlic Ranch by adding just one ingredient to Marzetti® Ranch Dressing.
Looking for more recipe ideas and menu inspiration?
Make sure to check out our recipe section.