They’re here! Seasonal artichokes have begun to arrive in markets. Don’t let these ornery thistles intimidate you. Choose artichokes with tight leaves that feel heavy for their size. Light scaring and discoloration on the outer leaves is okay; it’s their job to protect the tender inner leaves.
Depending on the preparation, artichokes can be a most carnal vegetarian repast or a refined culinary delicacy. Take your pick, they’re all delicious.
Just a Trim
Leave most of the work (and fun!) to the eater. The ultimate finger food, I made quick work of artichokes when I was still highchair bound…you can imagine the captive audience at restaurants!
How to Prep: Trim the stem end, then saw off the top third of the artichoke using a serrated knife. Tear off the tough, outermost leaves and snip the thorns from the tips of the remaining leaves with scissors. Immediately submerge in a bowl of lemon-water to prevent browning while prepping the remaining artichokes. Steam or boil trimmed artichokes, 30 to 40 minutes for medium-sized, or until a leaf pulls off easily.
Word to the wise: Aluminum cookware will discolor artichokes, opt for stainless steel.
How to Eat: A trimmed artichoke is like a healthy, nature-made version of the onion blossom! Serve one medium artichoke per person with melted butter or aioli for dipping. Tear off a leaf, dunk, and scrape off the flesh with your front teeth. Once you’ve eaten your way to the petal-like center leaves, pull them out in a clump to reveal the choke, a fuzzy swatch at the base of the artichoke. Use a knife (butter will do) to slice just beneath the fuzzy layer, removing the choke, then gobble up your hard-earned heart!
Par-cooked and hollowed, artichokes become edible vessels for any number of stuffings.
How to Prep: Prepare artichokes as instructed above, but cook 10 minutes less and place stem, side up, on paper towels to drain and cool. Pinch the cone-shaped bunch of leaves at the center of the artichoke and pull them out. Remove the choke with a teaspoon or melon baller (better than a soup spoon because of the sharper edge, which is very helpful).
How to Eat: Fill the cavity and the spaces between the leaves with stuffing and bake. (see full stuffing recipe below)
The Heart of the Matter
They come by the jar and can, packed in oil, brined or seasoned, but nothing compares to a fresh artichoke heart. Meaty and hedonistically satisfying, the fresh artichoke heart is one of my favorite culinary pleasures.
How to Prep: Par-cook and cool, as instructed above. Strip away the outer layer of leaves, then, working one at a time, snap off the inner third of the remaining leaves, so that the meaty base of the leaves stays attached to the heart.
How to Eat: Halve and use a paring knife to carve out the choke and innermost leaves. Gently flatten each half with the palm of your hand and grill or dust with flour and pan fry. Or, sauté with oil and garlic and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice.
How to Prep: Par-cook and cool, as instructed above. Cut off the stem, remove all the leaves and cut out the choke.
How to Eat: Hearts are the most versatile and scrumptious part of an artichoke. Quartered or sliced, hearts can be tossed with pasta, baked into casseroles or piled on pizzas.
Fragrant Stuffed Artichokes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2-ounce tin anchovies in oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh black pepper
6 large, trimmed, par-cooked artichokes, center leaves and chokes removed
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add the anchovies in their oil, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until the anchovies melt, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden-brown and toasted, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese and season with pepper.
- Spoon the mixture into the cavity of each artichoke and in between the leaves. Place the stuffed artichokes side by side in a baking dish, drizzle with oil and bake to heat through, about 15 minutes.
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