What to CookCooking with Scraps

Buying Artichokes Only for the Hearts? Don't Toss the Leaves

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My husband introduced me to fresh artichokes when we were first dating. Growing up, his mother would occasionally get them as a treat for him and his sister, steam them, and serve them with melted butter for dipping the leaves (officially called the bracts). So we did the same. After we polished off each and every leaf—scraping away the tender ends with our teeth—he taught me how to remove the fuzzy choke with a knife. We’d then divvy up the heart into four chunks, dunk them in any remaining melted butter, and savor our final two pieces of the artichoke each.

Given my introduction to them, this is how I almost always eat artichokes. It feels wrong somehow to buy them with the sole intention of getting at their hearts, stripping away their leaves and discarding them without any intention of nibbling on them. But today's recipe assuages any lingering guilt for making recipes that use only the artichokes' hearts, by making sure those leaves get put to good use and won’t head straight for the compost bin.

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Nacho average nachos.
Nacho average nachos. Photo by James Ransom

Years ago, Tara Duggan mentioned roasting artichoke leaves and the idea stuck in my subconscious until recently, when I had a dream about artichoke leaf nachos and woke up determined to make them. (Tell me this happens to you, too, so that I don't feel so weird!)

These aren’t true nachos of course: There are no chips to be found, nor traditional nacho toppings, but they aren’t all that far off. After boiling, artichoke leaves are spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan (I have never understood the logic behind making nachos mounded up in a pile), sprinkled with cheese and other toppings, and sent for a spin in the oven to let the cheese get soft and slumpy. I topped mine with feta, black olives, and a quick aioli sauce, but you could take this idea in a lot of different directions. Once summer comes, I plan to try them again with chopped fresh tomatoes and a basil- or tarragon-laden aioli.

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Roasted Artichoke Leaf Appetizer with Feta and Black Olives (& Cheater's Aioli)

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Makes a sheet pan's worth
  • 4 medium artichokes
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 to 3 ounces sliced black olives (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Fresh ground black pepper (optional)

Know of a great recipe hiding in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap? Tell me about it! Send me an email ([email protected]) or tell all in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure!

Tags: cooking with scraps, artichoke leaves