Choke a guy named Artie once, and nobody ever lets it go. (Just kidding.) Ah the mighty artichoke. What's not to love? Spiky outer leaves provide a suit of armor, protecting the tender heart within. (Sounds like a metaphor for several of my ex-boyfriends...) During the 16th century, it was considered scandalous for women in the 16th century to partake of the pleasures of artichoke eating. (It was also thought to be a potent aphrodisiac for men.)
A few centuries down the road and into future, it's obvious the artichoke should be welcomed into all our diets - men and women alike. Research has identified the artichoke as a natural antidote to a host of ailments including heart disease, cancer and birth defects. Among antioxidant-rich foods, artichokes are often overlooked, however a July 2006 study tested the antioxidant levels of more than 1,000 foods and beverages and found that artichoke hearts had the highest level among all vegetables measured. They came in fourth among all foods and beverages analyzed in the study. That means artichokes beat out more commonly referenced antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, red wine, chocolate, coffee and tea.
Cynara, the first Myth Artichoke According to an Aegean legend, the first artichoke was a lovely young girl who lived on the island of Zinari. The god, Zeus was visiting his brother Poseidon one day when, as he emerged from the sea, he caught sight of a beautiful young mortal woman. She did not seem frightened by the presence of a god, and Zeus seized the opportunity to seduce her. He was so pleased with the girl, who's name was Cynara, that he decided to make her a goddess so that she could be nearer to his home on Olympia. Cynara agreed, and Zeus looked forward to the trysts to come whenever his wife Hera was away. Soon thereafter, Cynara began to miss her mother and grew homesick. She snuck back to the world of mortals for a brief visit. After she returned, Zeus discovered this un-goddesslike behavior. Enraged, he hurled her back to earth and transformed her into the plant we know as the artichoke.
A few tweaks to a favorite spinach dip - and voila! Delicious artichokeness with a low-fat spin.
SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP
- 2 cans artichoke hearts, unmarinated
- 1-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 block chopped spinach, frozen or fresh
- 1 8-oz brick reduced fat cream cheese
- 1/3 cup low fat sour cream
- 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- optional, chopped water chestnuts for added crunch
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients in a baking dish, reserving 1/2 cup mozzarella for toping. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle additional 1/2 cup mozzarella and broil until the cheese browns. Serve with tortilla chips, french bread, pita slices or keep the calorie count down and serve with crudites.