It’s exhilarating to see spring vegetables popping up in the market! The chilly temperatures may not always signal a new season, but the appearance of spring onions, asparagus, peas, and artichokes certainly does. Of these spring vegetables, it is hard to pick a favorite; for sheer beauty and mystery, artichokes have to be at the top of my list. The best part of the artichoke is its heart, but getting to the heart takes some work. (The metaphor does not escape me.)
Frozen artichoke hearts are available in most grocery stores and are a good item to keep on hand. The peak season for artichokes is March through May, but in your freezer they can be called on any time of year. Artichokes add fiber and flavor to any dish, and pair well with pastas, chicken, fish, and grains. Simply thaw a package and add them to your next meal. Here, I pair artichoke hearts with chicken, lemons, and capers for a quick and simple meal.
Chicken with Artichoke Hearts, Lemon & Capers
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 1 ½ pounds
1/3 cup white wine (or chicken stock)
1 tablespoon lemon peel, grated
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 package frozen artichoke hearts (9 ounces)
¼ cup capers (optional)
Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Pour olive oil into the bottom of a 9” X 11” oven-safe dish; lay chicken breasts on top and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Tuck the lemon slices and artichoke hearts around the chicken and sprinkle the lemon zest and capers on top.
- Pour the wine and lemon over the chicken breasts.
- Cook chicken for 30 to 40 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken breasts.
- If desired, place baking dish under the broiler for a few minutes to get some char on your lemon slices and artichoke hearts.
- Chicken with Mushrooms and Lemon. Substitute 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms for the artichokes, and eliminate the capers.
- Chicken Thighs with Artichoke Hearts, Lemon and Capers. Use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts if you prefer dark meat to white.
- Chicken with Lemon and Thyme. Omit the artichokes and capers, and add 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves for something simpler.
To quickly defrost vegetables, place them in a colander and pour hot (not boiling) water over them. Drain well before using.
Artichokes have been around for centuries; there are literary references to them as far back as 77 AD. They grow in warm climates, like Sicily and California, and pack an amazing 7 grams of fiber per serving (1 large artichoke) with about 75 calories.
Artichokes are one of the best sources of fiber in the vegetable world. Frozen artichoke hearts are a delicious and convenient addition to many dishes, and well worth keeping in your freezer. Try using half of your usual portion of dried pasta with a cup of frozen artichoke hearts (per person) to increase fiber and decrease carbohydrates—just throw both into the same pot of boiling water—and top with your favorite pasta sauce.