How can any food related to the thistle not be scary? Ok, so artichokes aren’t the scariest thing in the world. In fact, if someone else makes them for you or if they come in a jar (eek!), they aren’t scary at all. But preparing a fresh artichoke, straight from the market, that can be a bit intimidating to the uninitiated. For some reason it is something I had never done until recently. However, on my latest trip to the farmer’s market there were some beautiful baby artichokes for sale (sure, they clearly weren’t from northern Indiana; I’ll temporarily give up my liberal elite, hippie, locavore status) After cooking them I found that artichokes aren’t scary at all. Sure, there is a bit of cutting and trimming, but once you know how it is trivial. Before you begin there are a few things to remember:
1) Artichokes oxidize faster than any vegetable (and most chemicals) I’ve ever seen. If you want your artichokes to stay green and pretty (you do don’t you?? Remember that we eat with our eyes first. You wouldn’t want your friends to laugh behind your back at your sad, brown, oxidized artichokes) immediately rub the cut surfaces with a cut lemon. After you are done preparing the artichokes deposit them in a bowl of acidulated water (see below).
2) The only time in my entire career (chemical or culinary) I’ve seen the the word ‘acidulated’ is in reference to artichokes. It is just a fancy way of saying ‘put the artichokes in a bowl of water that has something acidic added’. Typically I squeeze half a lemon into a bowl of water; you could also use a bit of vinegar.
3) Artichokes are related to thistles. If you don’t have baby artichokes there will be some stuff in the center (the choke) that you don’t want to eat. Scoop it out with a spoon and throw it away. You won’t see this below because I had baby artichokes.
4) Fun fact: Baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes that grow at the base of the plant and just happen to stay tiny and choke-free.
Now, onward to the good stuff! Since I had never prepared artichokes before, I relied on a fellow blogger for some help. Recently, Orangette published a delicious recipe for braised artichokes that I have adapted only slightly.
1 lemon, cut in half, 3-4 slices reserved
1 dozen baby artichokes
a 1:3 mixture of olive oil:water
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 springs thyme
1 spring rosemary
1. Prepare the artichokes for cooking
1a) Cut the top 1/3 from each artichoke (don’t forget to rub the cut edge with a lemon, vide supra).
1b) Remove the outer leaves from each artichoke until the pale yellow inner leaves are exposed.
1c) Trim the stem close to the base of the artichoke.
1d) If desired (you know you want to, you’ve come this far) trim away any ugly edges that remain near the base from removing the outer leaves.
1e) Deposit the completed artichoke into a bowl of acidulated water to prevent discoloration (I really hate that term).
2) Bring the oil/water mixture (about 1/2″ in the bottom of your pan), smashed garlic, thyme, rosemary, and a few slices of lemon to a boil in a saucepan.
3) Add the artichokes, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender.
4) Serve the artichokes warm, finished with a squeeze of lemon and/or some freshly grated Parmesan.
Yum! Very tasty indeed! Other than my heavy handed Parmesan application and mediocre photography, the dish tasted really good. See, cooking fresh artichokes is not scary at all! Just go out and do it, they don’t bite! See you next time….