It’s understandable if you find those large, green globes somewhat intimidating, and have no idea how to prepare them. It’s not obvious. But artichokes aren’t just nutritious – they are very easy to prepare in a number of ways, and require minimal preparation or cooking skills.
Artichoke’s aren’t actually a vegetable at all – they are the bud of a thistle; a flower. The leaves, called “bracts”, cover a fuzzy center called the “choke”, which sits on top of a meaty core, called the “heart” and the stem – this is where all of that delicious and sumptuous flavour is hiding.
The heart is completely edible, and is delicious. The fuzzy choke is too fibrous to eat in regular artichokes, but edible in baby artichokes. All but the innermost leaves are tough, and you have to scrape them with your teeth to eat the tender parts.
The easiest way to cook artichokes is to steam them. Cut the tips off the leaves, then slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke (a serrated bread knife works great for this). Rinse well under cold water, and set up a pot with a few inches of water and a steaming basket (stick some garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf in the water – this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Cook for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off.
Boiling is just as easy, although some say it leaves the bracts a little waterlogged and heavy. Follow the steps above, but add enough water to cover the artichokes – again, cook until the leaves come off easily, then serve. To eat, pull off the outer leaves one at a time, and dip the white fleshy end in something: melted butter, a vinaigrette, or sauce. Place light end in mouth, dip side down, and pull scraping through your teeth to remove the soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal.
Feeling adventurous? Trying grilling artichokes – on the plate they’ll look as good as they taste! The trick is to steam them first. First, use a vegetable peeler to cut away the thick outer layer of the artichoke stems, trim them to 2 inches from the base of the artichoke, then cut off and discard the top 1/2 inch of the artichokes. Cut the artichokes in half.
Scoop out the fuzzy chokes and the small inner artichoke leaves, then rub lemon juice all over the inside and exposed cut areas of the artichokes. Steam as above, with the artichokes cut side down. To grill, brush them with oil and sprinkle all over with salt and herbs, then put them cut side down on the grill for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with sauce or a dip.
Roasting is also great for artichokes – it really brings out their flavours. Follow all the preparations steps as for grilling, but skip the steaming part. Fill the artichoke cavities with garlic and herbs, brush with olive oil (or melted butter) and lemon juice, and place them cut side up in a roasting tray. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, flip, then season again. Cover the pan loosely with foil, then roast some more until they are tender (when the leaves pull off easily, and a knife can be smoothly inserted in the base of the stem). Serve as above.
You can also experiment with more substantial fillings and. Try stuffing around the leaves with herby, garlic and parmesan breadcrumbs, adding plenty of lemon and olive oil – it’s an Italian classic, and uses lots of simple pantry ingredients. Stick a few of our great, USDA certified organic artichokes in your cart today, and start experimenting – cooking these delicious beauties really is easy.