I have talked to so many people who have either never tried artichokes or love them but have never attempted to cook them. They do appear to be intimidating but they are really, really easy to cook and fun to eat. If you can cook broccoli, you can cook an artichoke. These vegetables are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods (high in fiber and antioxidants among many other health benefits) but they are so delicious and fun to eat at the same time.
I have been a huge fan of artichokes since I was about 8 years old. They were always a treat in our house growing up. When one of my parents came home from the store with a bag of the green beauties, we were giddy all day, waiting for what seemed like an eternity for dinner time. I am proud to have two little artichoke lovers of my own. I am going to seriously have to figure out how to grow them in my garden this year because the prices can be outrageous for these gems. I almost always purchase mine at …. you guessed it, Costco. They sell a four pack of large artichokes for somewhere around $5-7 which is WAY less than you can generally buy them in other stores these days.
Let’s start by picking out our artichokes. There are several different ways to ensure you pick a good artichoke. First of all, you want your artichoke to be heavy, which means it is dense and has a lot of moisture in it. If you have ever had a dry, rubbery artichoke, you know why this is so important. You want your artichoke to look fresh and bright and give a little squeak when you squeeze it. If they don’t squeak, chances are, they are getting a little wilted. I also make sure to pick out the artichokes with the fattest stems. This will ensure a nice big heart which is my favorite part. I have heard that a good artichoke should have the thorn at the top of the leaves. I don’t know if this one is true or not but I try to find them anyways.
Ok, let’s get to preppin’.
Start by cutting the stem completely off at the base of the artichoke. Some people leave on a little of the stem on but I prefer to have it flat because it is much easier to cook and plate. Next you are going to trim the top inch or so off of the artichoke. Be sure you have a sharp knife for this – those leaves are tough to get through. Next, you want to use your kitchen shears and cut off all of the little thorns atop each leaf. Not only does this make your artichoke really pretty, it saves your fingers. I was poked by many an artichoke as a kid because my parents skipped this step 🙂
Place the artichokes in a large pot, stem-side down. Put enough water in your pan to cover about 1/3 of the way up on the artichoke. If you have a fresh lemon, cut it in half and rub the lemon onto the cut tops of the leaves. If you don’t happen to have a lemon handy, just squirt a little lemon juice on each artichoke after it is in the pan. Now it’s time for some garlic! I use 1 large clove of chopped (or sliced) garlic per artichoke. You can either take the time to place the garlic down between the leaves, or you can just pile it on top. As they cook, the garlic will fall down into the nooks and crannies.
Cover and cook over high heat until your water boils. Reduce to medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour.
You will know when your artichoke is done because the leaves will be easy to pull out and if you are anything like me, you have taste-tested about 26 leaves by now just to make sure they are cooked to perfection. The “meat” of the artichoke leaf should come off easily when you bite the leaf between your teeth about 1/2- 2/3 of the way up and pull out the leaf while biting. If you find that you have to pull pretty hard or it doesn’t come off in one smooth pull, keep cookin’.
Once your artichokes are perfectly cooked, use tongs to remove them at the bases and place them into individual bowls. This is where many people differ in artichoke eating. I personally sprinkle a little garlic salt on mine and call it good. Growing up, we drizzled a little vegetable oil over them with the garlic salt, also a yummy choice. I have had them dipped in butter which is really delicious but also takes a little bit of the healthy feeling away. Then there are those people out there that dip them in mayonnaise. I have never tried it and because of my distaste for mayo, I probably never will. If you like mayo, you might find this appealing. I know there are a lot of recipes for mayo dips.
Once you have eaten all of the leaves with substance, you will be left with some really thin leaves in the center of the artichoke. You will know when to stop eating these as they start to taste bitter (fyi the leaves in my artichoke were beautiful and purple but that is not common, usually they are just pale green.) Remove these leaves and place them in your “discard bowl.” Now you have the “choke” exposed. All you need to do to remove this is place your knife toward the edge and press down and drag toward the center. You will notice it releasing from the heart. Once you have it all released, just pinch the top with your fingers and remove the choke. You may need to scrape the top of the heart with a knife to remove them completely.
Now you are down to the best part. Again, I sprinkle mine with a little garlic salt but season as you wish and enjoy the last few bites of heaven.
I hope you are a little less intimidated now. Please stop by and leave a comment if you give them a try. I would love to know all about it.
By the way, this might be common sense to some but don’t put your discarded artichoke leaves in the garbage disposal. My husband did this once when we were dating way back when…. not a pretty sight.