Spring = Artichokes
When you see a display of artichokes as you enter the produce section of your grocery, it must be late March or April! THIS is when you want to buy, cook and eat artichokes. See the purple on this one? That’s what you want to look for when picking one out, and search for tight leaves too. If it’s all green with no purple, and has dried out looking leaf tips, skip it and move on to the next one. Artichokes are best when cooked & eaten the same day they’re brought home from the market.
Artichokes are not that difficult to prepare and make a great appetizer for 2 or a small group. Be sure to have a lemon handy as once this glorious vegetable is cut, it will brown quickly. Whether you steam, boil or bake, there is one technique to follow first.
Using a sharp knife, cut about 2 inches off the top, trim the end, rub both exposed ends with a fresh lemon. Using kitchen shears square off each leaf tip, rub artichoke all over with more lemon. Alternatively, place in a bowl of cold water with fresh lemon juice. At this point you’re ready to cook.
Count on 1 Artichoke per person if it’s the only appetizer; 1/2 pp if more appetizers are being served.
Steaming is a simple process: stand them upright in stainless steel pot, snug so they won’t move. Make sure you have a cover for this pot! Pour in enough boiling water to reach 2-inches and a dusting of salt, cover and keep on medium low to low for 30-45 minutes. Check once or twice to make sure your water level is about the same as you started- keep boiling water handy just in case. To serve, place each artichoke in a shallow soup bowl with a smaller individual dish of melted butter. Put a communal plate or bowl on the table for eaten leaves & chokes. Peel off one leaf at a time, holding the squared tip, and dip in the melted butter, suck the meat from the end. Once you’ve reached the choke, strip away the prickly “fur” and discard. Now you are at the pearl of this decadent vegetable, the heart. Dip in butter and savor the moment!
For more ideas check out: https://www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=isbn:0894803921. Our Hearts Belong to Artichokes, The New Basics Cookbook, by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins.