The Best Canned Vegetable You're Probably Overlooking

Canned artichokes are the pantry vegetable hero we all need on deck.

Do you have a can (or jar) of artichokes in your pantry right now? You should. But you probably don't, because somewhere in the eighties or nineties, canned artichokes went the way of sun dried tomatoes and became suddenly uncool. We all love fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, glowing with health and that home-from-the-farmer's market unprocessed superiority. Sure, unprocessed food is great. But you know what I really don't want to process myself? Artichokes.

No, I'm leaving those spiky, low-yield orbs to the professionals in restaurant kitchens and the machines in vegetable processing plants. Some things are just not worth doing in your own home. One thing that is worth doing, though? Cracking open a can of artichokes in all their tangy, tender, endlessly adaptable glory.

If I tried, I think I could incorporate canned artichokes into every meal. The most obvious place to start is dinner, by draining the hearts, roughly chopping them, and then adding them to a simple pasta. Perhaps this aglio e olio, one of the great pantry pastas and an excellent jumping-off point for, well, almost any meal you can think of. Want something with a little more heft? What about a baked pasta inspired by everyone's favorite spinach artichoke dip?

But the possibilities go far beyond pasta. Even the most simply canned artichokes, held in nothing but water and salt, have a tangy acidity that makes them an excellent addition to rich, hearty dishes as well as vegetable sides. Add a few cans to the skillet in a seared and roasted chicken thigh dish, with maybe a splash of white wine and a little garlic, and they'll melt down into a side dish that feels far fancier than its canned beginnings might indicate. Toss them into to a salad to add a meaty texture; oil-packed artichokes are especially good for this, as you can simply drizzle the oil directly onto the greens for a ready-made dressing. Simply adjust the seasoning to your liking with a little salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Canned artichokes are also a lunchtime hero: Try chopping and stirring them into a quick meal like chicken or tuna salad, or even let them replace the protein altogether as a vegetarian option. Chop them even finer and use them as a flavor-bomb of a spread on a regular ham or turkey sandwich. Even simpler, include them as a side snack on your next cheese or charcuterie board... the salt and acidity makes them an excellent palate cleanser, perfect for pairing with fatty meats and cheeses. The options are limited only by your creativity.

So what are you waiting for? Add canned artichokes to your shopping list.

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