The Art in Artichoke

There are certain foods that reign high on my list of must haves in the house during summer.  After sifting through the Lincoln Square Farmer’s Market Tuesday morning, I came home with two of my summertime favorites: heirloom tomatoes and peaches (stay tuned for posts on these guys soon)!  I was looking forward to digging into these guys during dinner and also picked up an artichoke at the local market.  Tomatoes and peaches; easy.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with both as I imagined sea salt and cracked black pepper on my caprese and the possibility of using the griddle to grill peaches for dessert.  The artichoke was a different story.  I love steamed artichoke at a restaurant but had never given it a try at home.  The thought of lemon butter sauce and crisp breadcrumbs dribbling off the leaves was enough for me to scoop the artichoke into my bag.  However, it was not that graceful.  Artichokes have needles on their leaves.  Ouch!

I looked at a variety of websites in order to properly prep my artichoke.  Let me tell you, it is quite involved.

1. While handling the artichoke by its stem, use a kitchen shears to cut off the top of each leaf one at a time.

2. Next, cut off the top.

4. Remove the outer layer of leaves towards the base and stem of the artichoke.  Discard.

3. Gently separate the leaves.  Inside you will find the choke which is where the artichoke flower would grow from had it been mature enough to do so.  You remove the choke by gently grabbing it from the inside, give it a gentle twist and pop it out.  Last, use a grapefruit spoon (or a teaspoon) and scrape out the inside.  What you are scraping out is a fuzzy, stringy, inedible base to the choke.

This is the choke. It is quite lovely and edible.

4. Now your artichoke is ready to be steamed or boiled.  If you are preparing more than one artichoke make sure the prepped artichokes are in a bowl of cool water with lemon to keep them from discoloring.  You may even rub an opened lemon on the leaves as well.

5. I chose to boil my artichoke because I do not have a steamer basket.  Note: Leave the whole stem or part of it in tact.  You will know the artichoke is cooked through by the tenderness of the stem.  Simply put a small knife or toothpick through it to test its softness.  Boiled or steamed, artichokes take about 20-30 minutes to cook through depending upon how many artichokes you are cooking at once.  I used a stock pot and covered it with a lid, turning the artichoke halfway through the cooking process.  You will only need to fill the pot halfway with water.

Very simply, you could steam or boil the artichoke and eat the meat of the leaves by themselves or perhaps with the more common lemon butter sauce.  For me, what followed next was a baked artichoke recipe I found here: http://jbf.themechstage.com/recipes/stuffed-artichokes.  This one is a bit involved, but there are a zillion recipes online to choose from.  Unfortunately, I might have overcooked my artichoke slightly because when I pulled it from the oven, many leaves slipped off.  Although the presentation was a bit messy, the baked artichoke was mouth-watering!  Do not be fooled by the tough exterior or spiny leaves.  With a little love these beasts turn into beauties inside and out.

Buttery, delectable goodness!

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