A “How-to” for Artichoke Lovers & Newbies

Spring means a lot of different things. The start of artichoke season is one of those things if you’re an artichoke lover. artichoke-1

 

I’m surprised whenever I hear someone say that they’ve never prepared an artichoke. I’ve even known some people who’ve never even eaten one.

They’re not that mysterious, but they will hurt you. Artichokes are part of the thistle family and are surrounded by petals or leaves tipped with sharp thorns. The petals are the part that you dip then eat by pulling them through your teeth. Each artichoke has a bottom, which is the sweet spot that’s worth going through the petals and the fuzzy choke.

I prefer my artichokes humongous. And large artichokes easily are shared by two people.

When I have guests, I sometimes put one or two artichokes out as appetizers, along with assorted marinated olives, cheeses and flat breads. Note that when you’re serving artichokes to guests, don’t have a shallow bowl or plate near the artichoke for the used petals. A pile of half-eaten petals are pretty unattractive. I place a small ceramic pitcher near the artichoke, so when guests toss in their used leaves, no one has to see them.

When selecting artichokes, chose those that are firm and heavy for their size. If you come across some that have slightly brownish outer leaves that look as if they’re peeling, don’t worry, they’re fine and have been hit by frost. Some people say that those have a more concentrated flavor than the pretty green artichokes. While they’re pretty to look at, store the artichokes in the fridge. If you leave them out on display too long, they’ll shrivel up or even start to spoil. artichoke-4

The most popular method to prepare artichokes is to boil them. But some folks steam them while others grill.

They’re so simple to prepare that you almost don’t need a recipe, just some notes. The worst you can do to your artichoke is to undercook it. It’s one veggie that is forgiving when slightly overcooked.

 

artichoke-3Boiling method:

Fill a large pot with water and add about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, 1/4 cup olive oil and about a dozen dried bay leaves. Bring the water to a boil while you prepare the artichokes.

Cut the stems so that the artichoke can sit up without keeling over. Slice off about an inch from the top.

For a traditional look, take kitchen shears and cut each leaf or petal straight across. But I prefer what I call lotus-style artichokes.

Rinse the artichokes in cold water after they’ve been trimmed.

Place them in the boiling water and don’t worry, they’re going to float. It’s what artichokes do. But if you use a pot with a heavy lid, that’ll help to keep the steam in and they’ll cook nicely.

After about 45 minutes, large artichokes should be done. And when you can easily pierce the bottoms with a sharp knife, the artichokes are definitely done. You also can pull off a leaf and see if it’s tender.

Gently remove the artichokes from the pan and place them, bottoms up, in a colander and let them drain.

You can eat the artichoke right away or at room temperature, or you can let it cool and store it in the fridge for a couple of days. Sometimes I cook several when I find them on sale, then throw them on the grill to reheat with whatever else I’m grilling.

Serve them with a homemade shallot vinaigrette or mayo.