Artichokes are one of the delicious blessings of Spring and Fall. How someone first figured out how to eat this thistle, the bud of a flower of the globe artichoke, remains a mystery. But we are forever grateful. The slow process of savoring first the leaves, then the choke, creates an experience that is fun to enjoy with family or friends, and ideal for dieters as long as any serve-with dipping sauce is low in calories.
To shop for top-notch artichokes, pick ones that are heavy and firm for their size, with leaves that cling together on the head. Artichokes mar easily but that is not an indication of poor quality. Do avoid ones with soft, brown, or black areas on the body or stem. For best storage, refrigerate artichokes in your produce drawer; do not keep them in a plastic bag as this will encourage rotting.
Intimidation is often the reason many people have never tried to eat this wonderful vegetable. The best part, you eat the leaves with your fingers. Start by breaking off an outer leaf at the base with your fingers. Dip the base of the leaf in sauce, bite down on the fleshy part at the base, and pull it through your teeth. Keep eating the leaves until you get to a closed cone or purplish tipped leaves. Remove these feathery leaves, scoop out the fuzzy core with a spoon and discard. Finally, eat the base or the heart of the choke with a knife and fork.
4 large artichokes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. To cook: Wash the chokes. Cut the stem end off the base of each artichoke and cut off the top quarter of the leafy portion. Rub the cut surfaces with fresh lemon to keep them from discoloring. With a pair of scissors, cut off the prickly ends of the leaves. Meanwhile, heat 1-inch of water and lemon juice to boiling in a nonreactive pan (stainless steel or enamel but NOT aluminum). Stand the prepared artichokes upright in the water; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 to 40 minutes, or until the base of the choke is fork-tender. Drain. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the prickly center leaves from the artichoke with a teaspoon; discard.
Serve with choice of sauces for dipping leaves, see below. Makes 4 servings.
Classic Lemon Butter
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Melt the butter in a small saucepan; add the lemon peel and juice. Pour into four small dishes. and serve with cooked artichokes. Makes 1/2 cup.
Green Goddess Sauce
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as a combination of dill, tarragon, basil, and parsley
Place all of the dressing ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is creamy. Makes about 2/3 cup.