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Artichokes--the Five-Finger Exercise

April 08, 1993|BEV BENNETT

If you're a diet trivia fan, as I am, you may recall the old theory that eating celery helps you lose weight. The calories burned chewing (or so the theory goes) are greater than those in the vegetable.

It's a good theory if your chewing habits resemble those of King Kong.

But now I've developed a new diet concept called the artichoke exercise. You get rid of one calorie for each leaf you pull off a plump artichoke. The exercise strengthens the fingers, improves fine motor skills and gives you an excuse to play with your food.

This doesn't mean, however, that you can compensate for the calorie burn-off by slathering butter on an otherwise low-calorie artichoke. Instead, use a combination of garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, capers and cayenne pepper for a delicious, relatively low-calorie stuffing. These Baked Artichokes make a lovely light entree when served with a green salad.

However, if you're ignoring my revolutionary new diet theory (and it's thoroughly tongue-in-cheek) and are just looking for a great meal, pair the artichokes with Peppered Lamb Chops. Coat shoulder chops with coarsely ground peppercorns, sear them in butter and serve with a mushroom-brandy sauce. You can always add some celery sticks on the side.

BAKED ARTICHOKES 2 large artichokes, stems removed 2 cloves garlic, crushed Salt 1/2 cup bread crumbs 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese 2 tablespoons capers Dash cayenne pepper 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup chicken broth

Place artichokes in pan with water to cover and add garlic and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat until just tender but not completely done, about 30 minutes. Remove and drain well. Discard garlic. Remove choke from center of each artichoke.

In small bowl combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, capers, cayenne, salt to taste, parsley and enough olive oil to moisten mixture. Loosely fill artichoke cavities with bread-crumb mixture. Place in small baking dish or 9-inch glass pie plate. Add chicken broth. Bake artichokes at 325 degrees until very tender, basting occasionally with chicken broth, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 2 servings.

PEPPERED LAMB CHOPS 2 teaspoons coarsely ground peppercorns 4 (1/2-inch thick) shoulder lamb chops 2 tablespoons butter 1 large green onion, minced 1/2 pound portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/2-inch thick 2 tablespoons brandy 1/2 cup beef broth 2 tablespoons whipping cream Salt, optional Cooked fettuccine, optional

Pat ground peppercorns on both sides of lamb chops. Set lamb aside at room temperature 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat. Add lamb chops and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter along with green onion and mushrooms and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add brandy and cook over high heat 1 minute, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on bottom of skillet.

Add beef broth. Return lamb to skillet. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, turning lamb over halfway through cooking time. Remove lamb and keep warm. Stir cream into skillet. Cook over high heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

To serve, spoon fettuccine onto 2 dinner plates. Top each serving with 2 lamb chops and 1/2 of sauce. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

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