Once considered an aphrodisiac, artichokes literally feed the heart. In fact, in a study assessing the heart health–promoting antioxidant levels of more than a thousand different foods, artichoke hearts measured the highest of all vegetables, and ranked fourth overall. The reason? Artichokes contain silymarin, known to protect against skin cancer and promote healthy liver function. What’s more, artichokes are fat-free, have a mere 60 calories each, and score high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and magnesium. Intimidated by this funny-looking piece of produce? Try one of these easy recipes:
Artichoke and white bean dip
In a skillet, sauté 1 diced medium onion and 1 tablespoon minced garlic in olive oil until onion softens. Stir in a 15-ounce can of cannellini (or other white) beans, drained and rinsed. Transfer to a food processor, and add a 12-ounce jar of artichoke hearts, drained, juice of 1/2 lemon, and 1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt. Pulse until well mixed and artichokes are coarsely chopped. Serve warm or chilled.
Grilled chicken with creamy artichoke wine sauce
In a bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup white wine, 1/4 cup milk or cream, and 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth. Heat in a sauce pan, stirring occasionally, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in 6 ounces coarsely chopped artichoke hearts, and heat through. Serve over pan-grilled chicken seasoned with salt and pepper, and sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese.
Steamed artichokes with lemon dill sauce
Trim whole artichokes, discarding stems and tough outer leaves. Steam artichokes for approximately 30 to 35 minutes, or until tender. While artichokes are steaming, prepare sauce: Mix 1/4 cup low-fat, plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon dried dill, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.
Artichoke and sausage potatoes
In a saucepan, cook 2 cups red potatoes—cut into 1-inch cubes—in water until just tender, and set aside. In a skillet, brown 2 to 3 chicken sausage links, sliced, and 1 diced medium onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add potatoes and 12 ounces coarsely chopped artichoke hearts. Heat through and serve.