In this Caponata inspired recipe, I use artichoke hearts and green olives for a twist on the classic that stays true to the briny and bright nature of the dish. I give you Artichoke Caponata!
So what is traditional Caponata? Caponata is a sweet and sour Sicilian vegetable side or topping traditionally made with eggplant, raisins, and pine nuts. For a briny twist I decided to swap out the traditional ingredients with canned artichoke hearts, capers, and green olives. I wanted to make sure my version was just as punchy as the original, and it definitely delivers. This recipe requires minimal cooking and can be pulled together quickly to add a pop to any meal or snack.
My favorite way to eat this is on baked or grilled fish such as Mahi Mahi, a recipe I have in my cookbook, The Mediterranean DASH Diet, but you could also serve alongside a whole grain with a plant-based protein like chickpeas. You could even include this as part of a cheese board or serve with crackers and your next event.
What are your thoughts about Artichokes?
A lot of people avoid artichokes because they look intimidating or seem unfamiliar. In fact they look more like the succulent plants we use to decorate our homes than most vegetables. Their spiky leaves and closed shape aren’t the most inviting, but once you understand the basics of how to buy and prepare artichokes you will realize how simple they can be. And how delicious!
Anatomy of an Artichoke
Unlike broccoli or cauliflower, not all parts of the artichoke are edible.
When you look at a fresh artichoke you will first notice the spiky outer leaves. You won’t want to eat these raw, but cut off the top of each leaf with a pair of kitchen scissors, steam or roast, and enjoy by scraping off the buttery underside of the leaves with your teeth. For full instructions, see my recipe for Instant Pot Artichokes.
Explore beyond the outer leaves and you will reach the purple-topped inner leaves. These can be removed with a knife or spoon and tossed right along with the fuzzy inner choke that sits on top of the heart. You won’t want to consume either the inner leaves or the choke.
If you make it this far, you will find the artichoke heart. You are probably most familiar with the artichoke heart as it is sold frozen and canned in grocery stores. When cooked and/or preserved, the artichoke heart has a soft, easily-chopped texture.
If they aren’t harvested, artichokes will grow a beautiful purple flower that looks like a thistle, but you will not see those in grocery stores. They are actually within the same plant family as sunflowers.
Artichokes are purchased fresh in their full form, or as artichoke hearts frozen or canned/jarred. Canned or jarred artichoke hearts can be packed in water or oil, marinated or plain, so make sure to check your recipe for the exact type you need.
There are no nutritional benefits to dissecting and roasting or steaming a full artichoke if a recipe calls for hearts, so make life easy and purchase the hearts canned or frozen (and then thawed). If using frozen, simply pop in the microwave before use or place in the refrigerator up to one day before you need them. If using canned or jarred make sure to drain first.
Artichokes are available in their canned, jarred, or frozen state year-round, and can be found fresh March-May and October-November.
Artichoke leaves and hearts are packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Specifically, artichokes are a great source of a variety of vitamins such as C, K, and folate, and minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Like most vegetables, Artichokes also contain a high amount of fiber, almost ¼ of our daily needs per serving. Most of us are not getting enough fiber in our diets, so it is important to add it in wherever we can (25 grams per day for women, 38 grams per day for men).
In 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture tested and ranked the antioxidant content of nearly 100 different foods and found the concentration in artichokes to be one of the highest studied. Antioxidants travel through our bodies neutralizing dangerous cells called “free radicals” that are known to cause a variety of diseases including cancer and Alzheimer’s. The particular antioxidants in artichokes have also been shown to support liver health and help the body rid itself of toxins.
Common uses for artichoke
Artichokes have an earthy, nutty taste and buttery texture that pairs well with briny olives, tart lemons, or umami parmesan. They are quite versatile with all types of cuisine from the California coast to Greece to Italy.
We are probably most used to seeing artichokes mixed into a heavy dip with spinach and ten types of fat. Don’t get me wrong, that can be delicious, but it masks some of the more delicate aspects of the artichoke’s flavor. Artichoke hearts are also used to make soups, salads, tarts, dips, stews, pizzas and sauces. Artichoke leaves are roasted or steamed and dipped in aioli or infused olive oil. Once you start looking for artichokes in recipes they will pop up everywhere.
If you liked this artichoke caponata, check out these Instant Pot Artichokes!
- XIANLI WU, BEECHER GR, HOLDEN JM, HAYTOWITZ DB, GEBHARDT SE, PRIOR RL. Lipophilic and Hydrophilic Antioxidant Capacities of Common Foods in the United States. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2004;52:4026-4037.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 1 onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes chopped
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- ¼ cup pitted green olives chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers chopped
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons basil chopped
- Heat the oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the celery and onion, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and vinegar to deglaze pan, increasing heat to medium-high and scraping up any bits stuck to the pan.
- Add the artichokes, olives, and capers and simmer, reducing liquid by half, about 10 minutes. Mix in the basil.