How to open an artichoke: The Art of the Artichoke

March 19, 2010

Now that spring is around the corner (at least by the date on the calendar) I am getting very optimistic about all the new spring produce that will soon be in supermarkets and more importantly available from local farmers markets. Just the other day I spotted huge Globe artichokes from California at my local grocer’s and I made a bee-line for them. Plump, foreboding looking and prickly, artichoke are one of the first and best alternatives to the root vegetables that we have been eating all winter.

I know what you are thinking: Those things are hard to deal with. You are right, but the payoff is well worth it. Here ‘s what to do.

Buy artichokes that feel heavy in your hands and whose leaves are not wide open. Be careful of the pinchers on the leaves. To prepare them; wash them in hot water, then carefully remove the tough outer leaves by pulling them away with your hands. I usually take off two layers. Trim the pinchers of the remaining leaves with a scissors and use a knife to cut off about 1/4 inch down from the tops. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape the stem until a light green color shows.

Now for the hard part. Squeeze a lemon into a bowl of water; this will help prevent the artichokes from turning brown once you cut them. Use a sharp knife and cut the artichoke in half lengthwise right through the stem. Ah Ha! There you have it, the choke, that hairy mess right above the best part known as the heart. Use a spoon or melon baller to scrape out the choke and the pale looking leaves.

Then place the halves in the lemon water until ready to cook; you can do this a day ahead and cover and refrigerate them.

Artichoke When ready to cook, place the artichoke halves in a pot and cover them with water. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring them to the boil. Cook the artichokes, partially covered, until you can easily pull off a leaf. Drain them and allow them to cool until easy enough to handle.

Melt some butter and fill the cavity of each half. Eat the stem and heart first, then use the leaves to mop up the remaining butter and juices. Don’t stand on ceremony; this is finger food!

Another way to serve them is to stuff them with flavored bread crumbs and drizzle them with melted butter.

Thank God it’s spring!

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