Publisher's Note from Full Circle—A Special Feature Issue
Artichokes just might be the most fun vegetable to eat.
To dig into an artichoke, you have to be ready for a journey. First, you pluck the outer leaves, one-by-one, dipping them into drawn butter, hollandaise, or garlic aioli. Then you place a leaf between your teeth and pull, scraping off all the meaty flesh in one clean motion.
Once you've eaten your way to the core of the 'choke using this method, there are some tender, almost translucent leaves that can be eaten whole. Just below them are the fussy, inedible "choke" fibers that cover the tender, hunky artichoke heart. Scrape them away with a spoon, and then dive into the dense center as a grand finale.
Sounds like a lot of work? Maybe baby artichokes are more your speed. The little guys just need their tough outer leaves removed and sharp tips snipped off, then they can be cooked and eaten whole.
As far as how to cook your big boy artichoke, there are many ways, all of them ridiculously easy. We are partial to the no-frills steaming method, but we won't say no to grilled, garlic-roasted, or fancy-pants stuffed artichokes. To get your inspirational juices flowing, here are five basic ways to cook an artichoke.
Basic Artichoke Prep
A serving size is half to one whole artichoke per person, and every recipe begins with the same quick steps to get your 'choke ready to cook.
1. Trim the stems your artichokes, leaving about a 1/2-inch stem attached. Remove any brown or tough leaves that are starting to separate.
2. Use kitchen scissors to trim off the sharp thorns at the top of the leaves.
3. Then use a serrated knife to cut about an inch off the top of the artichoke.
4. Run artichoke, cut side up, under cool water to wash, and gently pull apart leaves, just a bit, to loosen.
Bring a few inches of salted water to a simmer in a large pot. Add your steamer basket to the pot and place artichokes inside. Cover and steam until a leaf pulls out easily from the middle, about 25-35 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before serving with a simple dipping sauce, like drawn butter, butter melted with garlic and a little lemon, or any kind of aioli.
You want easy? We'll give you easy. Clean your artichoke and cut the bottom off so it will sit up on its own in a microwave-safe dish in about an inch of water. Zap them for 15 minutes and serve with a Cesar, aioli or melted butter dipping sauce.
Cut your clean artichokes in half and, using a metal spoon, scrap out the fuzz and small inner leaves covering the meaty heart. Rub the halves with lemon to prevent browning, and then steam for 15 minutes while your grill heats up to medium high. Remove artichokes from steamer, pat dry, and brush with seasoned olive oil. For the seasoned oil, think minced garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and whatever else you like. Or use one of the great infused olive oils from the farmers market. Grill cut side down for 5-10 minutes or until slightly charred and tender.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and drizzle a large baking dish with olive oil, set aside. Cut your clean artichoke in half and scoop out the fuzzy center covering the heart, then season with salt and black pepper. Fill center cavities with a few garlic gloves and herbs like thyme and rosemary, if you like. Cover the hole with a lemon slice, then place in prepared baking dish cut side down. Drizzle with more olive oil and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes or until so tender that a leaf pulls easily away or the heart can be pierced with a fork. Use the roasted garlic and herbs to make a compound butter to serve alongside for dipping.
Stuffed & Braised
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Use your finger to gently pull open the center leaves of the cleaned artichokes. Remove the inner yellow artichoke leaves with your fingers, and use a small spoon to scrape and scoop out all of the inner fuzzy choke. Then, in a large bowl, make a stuffing by stirring together some breadcrumbs, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, chopped parsley, minced oregano, olive oil, and black pepper. Feel free to add some cooked, crumbled Italian sausage or sauteed minced mushrooms for more heft. The mixture should be moist, but not wet. Start stuffing the artichoke mix, putting some between each leaf and filling the center cavity. Place stuffed artichokes in a baking dish with about an inch of dry white wine or water. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little more parm, then cover tightly with foil. Pierce the foil in a few places and bake for 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, or until tender. You can also make this on the stove top by simmering the stuffed chokes in a covered pot for 45 minutes to an hour.