Alert! The holy grail of all veggies, and one of my favorite foods: artichokes, are in season! Technically, you find them year round but they are best in the spring and summer. During other seasons they can be up to $5/each! In the past few weeks, I’ve been buying them at Trader Joes for 99cents/each and they are the best ones I have had, even compared to farmers markets.
I know artichoke prep can be daunting but its actually not too bad once you get the hang of it. Here is my favorite preparation:
artichokes (I recommend the large round bulbus “big heart” ones you find spring/summer, not the smaller/thin varieties – those have no substance and are more difficult to cook)
assorted fresh herbs of choice, chopped (ex: rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme, dill, chives – whatever you have)
1 or 2 lemons, juiced (and zested if you want that extra flavor)
salt & pepper, fresh cracked is always best
optional: chili flakes
mayonnaise, as always I recommend homemade, organic store-bought, or Soy-Free Vegenaise
optional: roasted garlic
PREP & STEAM:
Fill a large bowl or pot with water and soak artichokes to clean out all crevices. Holding the stem, tap each one a few times at the bottom of the pot to loosen up any remaining debris before you remove from the water and dry off.
Fill a pot with a little water and add a steamer basket. Heat on a medium boil.
Using kitchen shears, trim off the sharp edges of each outer leaf (the ‘thorns’) until they are all flat. Cut off a sliver of the stem to refresh it.
When the water is ready, add to the steamer basket and cover the pot. Steam for at least 15 minutes. Take one out with a mitt, and cut in half to test it. The artichokes ‘heart’ (the meaty part at the base of the stem) should be almost edible at this point, but not too soft. Test by pressing your nail in the fleshy part near the stem. If its still too hard and your nail can’t easily pierce it, cut all of the artichokes in half through the stem and throw back in the steamer for a few more minutes.
Remove from the steamer and place on a cutting board, let cool slightly and halve any that haven’t been cut yet. Using a spoon or non-serrated knife, carve around the base of the prickly part (the ‘choke’), removing what is almost like an eye-shaped portion of the inedible, spiky stuff and any immediately attached thorns.
Sure, you can eat a steamed artichoke, but they are really best grilled! I take my steamed ones, place them in a glass tupperware dish, drizzle with olive oil, lemon (and lemon zest is great), sprinkle with minced garlic, herbs of choice, salt and pepper (chili flakes if you like). I let them sit in that marinade cut side down for awhile before I take them outside.
Heat grill to medium-high heat and close cover. When its ready, place directly cut-side-down and diagonally for the best ‘grill lines’. Grill for a few minutes, and check with tongs by gently lifting to see if your grill marks have appeared. When they are to your liking, take off the grill and put back into the marinade for even more flavor.
A lot of people dip the leaves in mayo to eat, but you can very easily jazz that up. I usually use a ‘aioli’ made of SF vegenaise, lemon juice, chives, and pepper OR SF vegenaise mixed with roasted garlic if I have it on hand.
Never knew how to eat them? You pluck the leaves off one by one, dip its base in sauce (or butter but you didn’t hear it from me) and scrape the edible flesh off with your teeth. When all the leaves are gone, you’ve made it. Getting to the heart is the goal – its the tastiest part. Enjoy.