Getting to the Heart

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It's artichoke season and a lot of people miss out on this fabulous vegetable because they do not know how to clean them. Simple.

Shave the stem with a vegetable peeler; take off first two bottom layers of leaves and discard; cut off top about 1/4 inch down. Trim remaining leaves with kitchen scissors to remove thorns. Inside the choke, the hairy part needs to be removed; open up the artichoke from the center out and use a small spoon to scrape out the choke, leaving the meaty heart intact.

The other way to do this is to boil the artichokes whole without removing the center choke. When cool enough to handle after boiling, carefully open up center and use a spoon to easily scrape out the hairy part. When boiling them, always put them in a pot where they fit snuggly so they will stand upright. I sometimes wedge a whole potato between the artichokes to keep them upright. Cover them with water, bring to a boil and cook over medium high heat until you can easily pull off an outer leave. Drain serve with melted butter or you could stuff and bake them with bread crumbs mixed with mint and garlic.

Get great artichoke recipes at www.ciaoitalia.com

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