Artichokes are such odd vegetables. How did the Italians – Artichokes were cultivated in Sicily and Naples – think to eat this thistle by just pulling the leaves through your teeth ? The leaves aren’t actually edible. There are spines on their tips, which is why the leaves are trimmed. There is only a little bit of edible, soft pulp on the bottom inside of the leaf. And of course, let’s not forget the heart, the most prized portion of the artichoke. Though small in size, it’s intensely earthy and nutty in flavor. In general, it seems like such work for so little (but delicious!) food! But I suppose the leaves and pulp add up if you eat the whole thing. It’s a great party food if you’re just sitting around and chatting. It’s also a great and healthy movie snack.
Artichokes are available year round, with Spring, Summer and Fall being the peak seasons. At the store, you want to look for an artichoke with an even green color and as little brown coloration as possible. It should have tightly wound leaves and feel heavy for its size. Squeeze it and it should produce a little squeak; it means it’s fresh. Artichokes seem intimidating if you’ve never worked with them before. But it’s actually quite simple!
To prepare it, you need to cut off the top 1/4 – 1/3 (the pointy top) of the artichoke. This is best done with a serrated knife since a regular chef’s knife can slip on the leaves. Then you want to take kitchen scissors and one by one snip off the prickly tip of each leaf. Then trim the stem so at most 1 inch of it is left. The artichokes will oxidize and turn brown so you’ll need to rub it all over with a lemon slice after cutting, or place it in a bowl of lemon water until ready for cooking.
So how do you cook it? The most common methods of cooking whole artichokes are steaming, roasting and boiling. You want to cook it until the leaves are tender. Depending on the size of the artichoke, this can vary from 25 – 45 minutes. I steamed these artichokes for about 30 – 35 minutes. The earthy and nutty flavor of the artichoke pairs well with a garlicky, creamy and/or buttery dip.
- Prepare the artichokes as instructed above.
- Take the sliced garlic clove and insert the slices between a few of the leaves of each artichoke.
- Place artichokes upside down (stem should be pointing up) in a steamer basket.
- Fill the steamer’s bottom pot with about 2 inches of water.
- Add in the bay leaf, smashed garlic clove, lemon slices and peppercorns.
- Place the steamer basket with artichokes on top of the pot and cover.
- Bring water to a boil and steam on medium heat until leaves are tender, about 25 – 45 minutes depending on the size.
- Mix together the ingredients for the Garlic Mustard Mayonnaise and chill until ready to use.