The artichoke has been the subject of mythological legend and medicine for millennia. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered it to be a delicacy. During the 16th century in Europe, when it achieved high gourmet status, it was said to be denied to women and reserved only for men due to its aphrodisiac powers. Thanks to early European immigrants, the artichoke made its way to North America, the best ones grown in California’s lush central coast.
Today, the artichoke’s reputation has been somewhat humbled due to its prickly thistle formation, although it has gained new and mightier ground as a nutritional multi-tasker. Known for being a major antioxidant, it is rich in vitamins A and C, fiber, folate, magnesium and potassium, among other vitamins and minerals. Studies indicate that it can assist with cholesterol reduction, IBS, and healthy liver function, not to mention it is low in calories and fat.
Although one is able to buy fresh artichokes in the store all year round, the best seasons for artichokes are spring, summer and fall. For those individuals who aren’t able to buy good artichokes in the winter months, I recommend making extra soup in the fall to freeze and enjoy over the winter months.
Every rose has its thorn (literally) and there is no easy way of making fresh artichoke soup—it is somewhat labor intensive, requiring one to pluck out all of its leaves to get to the heart, which is the main ingredient of the soup. Fortunately, from there on out it is smoother sailing.
**One can use frozen or canned artichokes. Although it is not as fresh – it is much less labor intensive and quicker to prepare.
Things you will need:
Knife and cutting board
Chopper (optional for onions and garlic – can also use good knife)
a few bowls for ingredients
3 large artichokes, 6 smaller artichokes (fresh).
2 medium organic potatoes ( I use russet or golden potatoes)
1 large onion
6 cloves of garlic
Bowl of Water
32 oz. of broth (chicken or vegetable)
Italian Parsley for Garnishing
Freshly shaven/grated cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan Cheese
Wash and cut of tip of the artichoke, removing the prickles.
Pluck all the leaves from the artichoke. Place the artichoke leaves into a side bowl.
When you get to the heart submerge the heart, I usually cut them into quarters then submerge them in a bowl of water with a squeeze or two of lemon juice – this will prevent discoloration of the artichoke due to oxidization.
Side Note — I usually take all the artichoke leaves and steam and eat them separately. No need to waste a perfectly good artichoke. I also use the water of the steamed artichoke as part of the broth. (if using canned or frozen artichokes, skip steps 1 -4)
Chop up onion and garlic cloves.
Saute the onion and garlic with salt and pepper until they are a translucent golden color. (Salt and pepper should be added according to ones taste)
Peel and cut the potatoes into cubes. (For those of you who don’t want starch in your soup, you can omit the potato. I find that it helps to thicken the soup. It will be much more watery without it.)
** Optional step – if you like the taste of roasted vegetables, I would recommend putting the artichoke hearts (drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper) in the oven, set at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
Add the artichoke hearts and potatoes to the onion and garlic. Give it a good stir or two to blend together the ingredients and flavor.
Add the broth
Cook at a medium heat until the artichokes hearts and potatoes are soft (not mushy). Should not be longer than 25 minutes.
Use the microplane to zest the lemons, add to the soup.
Ladle the soup’s ingredients into the blender. ( I usually ration in extra broth later, if it is too thick.)
Blend the soup until smooth.
Add extra lemon juice from the zested lemons ( to liking).
Salt and pepper to liking.
If it has cooled down, simply reheat and serve.
A bowl of artichoke soup is like eating a regular artichoke. I usually enjoy my artichokes with a simple olive oil and lemon juice sauce. However, one might like it with some shavings of asiago or parmesan cheese, topped with some fresh herbs.
Although there is no dedicated accompaniment – as is a grilled cheese for tomato soup – having a nice chunk of crusty rustic bread or even sourdough baguette for dipping is all it takes to enhance the eating experience. A spoonful of olive tapenade to go along with the bread, is also might tasty.