Spring Fling: Artichokes as Appetizers

By: Roberto Ferdman

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Sure, fresh ones may be available year round, but their sweet, nutty flavor shines brightest in the spring. Roasted, boiled, baked, grilled, fried or even microwaved, artichokes are healthy, versatile and surprisingly easy to prepare.

With the cold weather blues now safely tucked away for the year, light, airy and fresh snacks, like Laura Calder's Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Aioli, are all the fad. From crunchy crostinis to creamy bakes, we've rounded up some of our favorite appetizer recipes that take advantage of artichoke season.

Crostinis are best when light, fresh and balanced, and Giada's Artichoke Pesto on Ciabatta is all three. Serve them as an afternoon snack, hors d'oeuvres before dinner, or pack them up for a midday picnic. If you aren't feeling the pesto, try Rachael's Artichoke Toasts, with a tangy garlic aioli.

David Rocco's Raw Artichoke Salad makes for a great spring starter. Tart lemon and salty parmigiano play off each other beautifully, and a drizzle of olive oil brings it all together. Try Ingrid's Artichokes, Asparagus, and Watercress Salad if you prefer your chokes cooked. And if you're looking for something a bit more summery, go for Giada's Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella.

Whether grilling out back or entertaining in the house, Emeril's Artichoke and Spinach Dip is ideal for a crowd. Two different types of cheese give it melty richness, and a touch of cayenne pepper adds a bit of bite. Ellie Krieger, on the other hand, gives her Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip a cheesy twist with Neufchatel, mozzarella, and sour cream. If you're a fan of seafood, you may prefer Emeril's Spinach, Shrimp and Artichoke Dip.

Although artichokes can be handy for helping accent other flavors and ingredients, their nutty flesh and sweet aftertaste come through best when made the centerpiece of a dish. Giada's Stuffed Artichokes are full of fresh herbs like basil, mint and parsley that brighten their flavor, and acidic complements like capers and plum tomatoes that help bring balance. When it's raining out, opt for her Baked Artichokes with Gorgonzola and Herbs for something a bit more hearty.

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