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March 16 is National Artichoke Hearts Day; don’t miss it

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

You know how every day of every month is National So-and-So Day?

Well, so far this month, we’ve had National Cheese Doodle Day, National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day, National Peanut Cluster Day, National Blueberry Popover Day, and today is National Baked Scallops Day.

Wednesday is National Coconut Torte Day, Thursday is National Potato Chip Day, Friday is National Peanut Lovers Day, and Saturday is National Artichoke Day.

Naturally, March 17 is National “Eat Like an Irishman” Day.

March 26 is a triple threat, National Waffle Day, National Nougat Day and National Spinach Day.

Wedged in there after Potato Chip Day and Peanut Lovers Day is that artichoke day.

Artichokes are a spring food, and you might start seeing them in the grocery store.

Further research makes things a lot easier if you want to celebrate the spiny vegetable.

Artichoke hearts are easy. Someone else has done all the hard work for you, and the heart is the best part of the artichoke anyway.

No snipping ends, peeling leaves, removing chokes, etc.

Those artichoke hearts are in jars, cans and in the freezer case. You can find them plain or marinated.

Artichoke hearts are good in a salad, on top of pizza, with chicken, and of course, in spinach artichoke dip.

Here are a few artichoke facts.

• The artichoke is the unopened flower of a thistle plant.

• A medium sized globe artichoke is fat free and has just 25 calories.

• 3 percent of the world’s herbal tea consumption is dried artichoke tea.

• 40 percent of the world’s artichokes are canned or jarred.

• California is known as the artichoke capital of the world. They supply nearly 100 percent of North American fresh artichokes. It is California’s official state vegetable.

Now, let’s broaden our artichoke horizons.

15-minute Shrimp and Artichoke Sauté

1 pound peeled and deveined small shrimp

1 can small white beans, rinsed and drained

1 can artichoke heart quarters in water, drained

2 cups baby spinach

4 Tbsp. butter

2 tsp. olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup white wine

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a sauté pan and add olive oil. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic, herbs, lemon juice and zest, wine, beans and artichokes. Stir in spinach and cook until beans are warmed and shrimp is pink and opaque.

This is also good the next day served as a cold salad with additional lemon juice.

Lemon-Artichoke Hummus

1 cup artichoke hearts (canned, rinsed, dried, chopped)

4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/4 cup water

6 Tbsp. tahini

2 Tbsp. olive oil

14 ounces chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (divided)

2 tsp. fresh parsley

Set aside 1/4 cup artichokes for garnish.

In a small bowl, combine the water and lemon juice. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil and tahini together.

In a food processor, blend the chickpeas, 3/4 cup artichokes, garlic, salt, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper and lemon zest about 15 seconds. Use a spatula to scrape down ingredients.

Turn the processor on and add the lemon water slowly through the top. Scrape the sides again and blend about 1 minute. Turn the processor on and slowly add the tahini and oil mixture and process until smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

Place the hummus in a bowl and garnish with the extra artichokes, parsley and 1/4 tsp. cayenne. Let stand at least 30 minutes, then drizzle with olive oil before serving.

— Savour the senses

Chicken Artichoke Pesto Calzones

1 batch pizza dough

1 small jar prepared basil pesto

1-2 grilled chicken breasts, cut in pieces

1 can artichokes, drained, coarsely chopped

1/2-1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Olive oil, for brushing

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, allow it to heat up. If not, just use a sheet pan.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the pizza dough into two or more equal pieces. Stretch or roll out each piece in a circle, about 7-8 inches in diameter. On half of each round, spread of layer of pesto, leaving a half-inch border around the edge. Top with grilled chicken and artichokes and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Fold the other half of the dough over to cover the toppings and form a semi-circle. Press the edges together to seal. Transfer the calzones to the baking sheet or pizza stone and brush the tops lightly with olive oil. Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden.

Variation: Simply spread the ingredients on a pizza dough and bake as a pizza.

Add ons: Cooked bacon, baby spinach, mushrooms.

— Everyday Annie

Lemon Pepper Chicken with Artichokes

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts (or boneless thighs), pounded to 1/2 inch thick

1/2 cup flour seasoned with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper

3 Tbsp. canola oil

1 cup dry white wine (i.e. pinot grigio)

2 packages frozen artichoke hearts, quartered (or canned hearts)

1 lemon, sliced thin

Shaved parmesan cheese, for garnish

Coat chicken in seasoned flour.

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat and brown chicken on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Add wine and artichokes to skillet and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat down to low and cook for 8 minutes. Uncover skillet and add lemon slices and cook for 2 more minutes.

Remove chicken from sauce and bring sauce to a low boil. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until sauce is reduced a little.

Return chicken to skillet, stir in thyme and stir until chicken is coated with sauce. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Shave parmesan over the top and serve out of the skillet.

For more tang, add up to 2 Tbsp. of capers at the end.

— Framed Cooks

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