Fear not the (Globe) Artichoke!!
If there is one vegetable that I think most are afraid of, it's the artichoke. I think it doesn't help that larger, more mature artichokes are armed with thorns to keep you at bay (after all, they are a thistle!) Have no fear - I will list the steps you need to take to venture into steaming your first artichokes! So, grab your steamer basket, some lemon, water, salt and we'll make this super simple. As you grow to love them like we do here in my household, you will learn to stuff these beauties and turn them into wonderful appetizers or first courses...from simple to fancy - the artichoke is fun to eat too! Let's face it - the largest artichoke carries maybe 70 calories but, the melted butter you dip them in, pushes that over the edge. You can make a lemon infused yogurt dipping sauce that cuts down on those calories but, WHO are we kidding? I love the hot melted butter dripping all over those leaves and the artichoke bottom! Ok...enough of me babbling on, let's get cooking...((photo series shown at bottom of my post))
Buying/Picking: Choose un-blemished artichokes, make sure the underneath has a clean stem and no holes in the leaves (indicating a possible worm, yuck!) There ARE grocers that do not know how to tell if a choke is good too - they will almost let them rot on their own store shelves so, buyer beware!! Some say when squeezed the choke should 'squeak' a bit - indicating a younger, fresher choke. They should also be heavy for their size. I just make sure the entire globe is unblemished and free of any discoloration, rot or dryness. Keep in mind, some chokes do have a purple hue by nature of their variety (which does not indicate rot.)
Preparing: Have a lot to clean and prepare? Then make sure to grab some lemons! We will be making acidified water to keep your chokes GREEN (I don't bother with this step unless I'm making them for a dinner party...) I clean my chokes well under running water - then take one choke in hand, cut the stem down so that the choke sets on a flat surface without toppling over. Remove the very bottom outer set of leaves (3-5 at most are usually around the stem base.) Now take a sharp knife and cut off an entire 1/4 to 1/3 or the top of the choke (you wouldn't be eating that anyway) This leaves you with a nice clean open top, and possibly 2-3 lower rows of leaves that need the thorns clipped off - I use my kitchen shears and quickly zip off the thorn-tops of those leaves as well...If you want to keep your chokes green - this is when you cut a lemon in half and rub around the entire choke (making sure to hit the cut parts with the lemon, place prepared choke into a large bowl of ice water that has 4 Tbs of lemon added to it and move onto the next choke.)
Steaming: I have a large pot that has a steamer basket at the top, some have steamer baskets that rest on the bottom of a pot, either is fine. Fill pot with a good 3-5 inches of water, add 1 Tbs salt to water *some add a splash of lemon here too, I don't. Take one choke and open up slightly (loosen up the choke to accept steam) and place upside down into pot (stem end facing you). Steam approx 25-35 mins. (make sure to check water level in pot too! you don't want the pot to dry out without you noticing! which is why I love my steamer basket being at the top of my pot, I can fill my pot almost one-third full with water and let the steam do its thing) Chokes are ready for eating when you can insert a sharp knife easily into the stems.
Eating: I prefer the outside/in method. I eat the outer ring of leaves first, working my way into the center. Pluck off a leaf, dip into your sauce and scrape the underside of thee leaf over your teeth, the "meat" of the choke is actually only about 1/8th of the size of the entire leaf!! As you work your way in, the bottom with the choke meat gets lighter in density and easier to skim your teeth over. Near the center, most times its possible to eat the entire bottom portion of the leaf.
Beware of Fuzz: LOL. Okay, I'm warning you NOW that "cousin It" resides inside every choke unless its a mini choke (which can be eaten whole) The layer of fuzzy white/gray 'hair' lays right over the "artichoke bottom"...think of it as digging through a cracker jack box for the prize LOL...but, instead of popcorn, its un-edible...fuzz...fur...easily scraped off with a spoon and a swift, steady hand. Once that layer is removed, you can now consume what some feel is the "prize" - the heart or bottom...I cut mine up into 6-8 pieces and dunk into butter... Some people DO remove the "inside" of the choke down to cutting out the hair/fuzz before steaming, I do not.
All Photos by: Diane Baker for Canning and Cooking at Home
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