Friday, April 3, 2015

They're Finally Here!

We're getting a treat this week.  It's the thing I wait for all winter long.  When spring gets here, so do the artichokes. They've only been a recent discovery for me, but all spring long I could eat them day after day after day.  My six-year-old son also thinks they're very fun to eat.

Artichokes are related to thistles. So, technically, they're a weed.  The artichoke that you see is an unopened flower. If you let it bloom, they turn into very large, beautiful purple flowers.  But don't do that. You're wasting a perfectly good choke!

Photo via Wikipedia
If you're not familiar with artichokes, I highly recommend you watch this video clip from Alton Brown.  As a matter fact, if you're cooking anything for the first time, see if you can find a video clip of Alton cooking it. He's a great teacher.  A few months ago, when he was in town, I went to see his live show. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard.

Artichokes are easily made simply by steaming them. What you want to do is cut off the sharp tips on all of the leaves, and then steam them upright until they begin to open. This might be 25 or 30 minutes.  Practice making fancy sauces, Hollandaise or Bernaise or something similar, or even just a vinaigrette, and you're good to go.  

Photo via Cooking With My Kid
There are three phases to eating an artichoke. First, are the leaves. They are tough and fibrous, but when you pull them off right where they attached to the choke they have a whitish flesh that is soft and delicious. So dip that white part in your sauce, and scrape the meat off with your teeth.  This is the fun part.

The heart of the artichoke is the most prized piece.  After eating the leaves, there will be a fuzzy part with purple tips on top of the flat part of the artichoke. The fuzzy part isn't good to eat, so take the edge of a spoon and scrape it all off. Make sure you get it all.  You can cut the heart of the artichoke into bite-size pieces and eat it. Dip it in your sauce.

Photo via Epicurious
The inner part of the stem is also soft and very good to eat. You need to take off the outer husk that's stringy, and then eat the delicate part inside. When I cook artichokes, I use a vegetable peeler to take off the fibrous part before cooking them.

This is my favorite recipe for artichokes.  While they steam, make a simple vinaigrette of Dijon, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Slice the artichokes in half, drizzle over the dressing, and finish under the broiler.  A couple more of my favorites are here and here.


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