The artichoke is a perennial vegetable in the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean region. The artichoke that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. There are more than 140 artichoke varieties but less than 40 are grown commercially. Spring is the peak season and most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop.
How To Buy Artichokes
Select artichoke globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage. To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do not wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.
How To Prepare Artichokes
Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off the lower petals and cut off the bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully) to scoop out the choke. Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.
How To Cook Artichokes
Stand up the prepared artichoke in a deep saucepan or pot with 3-inches boiling water (if desired, oil, lemon juice and/or seasonings can be added to cooking water). Cover with a lid and gently boil approximately 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size of the artichokes, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily. When done cooking, remove from the pot and stand artichoke upside down on a rack to drain.
Place prepared artichoke on a rack above 1- to 2-inches of boiling water. Cover and steam approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily.
Baby artichokes are not a separate variety but merely smaller versions of larger artichokes. Their size comes from their location on the artichoke plant. They are picked from the lower parts of the artichoke plant where the plant fronds protect them from sun, in effect stunting their growth.
Small artichokes, which are being shipped fresh more frequently today, make a savory appetizer, salad or vegetable accompaniment when marinated, either whole or cut lengthwise in halves. They are also delicious in poultry, beef, pork or lamb stews.
Baby artichokes are sold in plastic bags or containers or loose. Their size can vary from walnut to jumbo egg size. Size is no indication of age. (Some babies are bigger than other babies!) Choose baby artichokes that are firm and heavy for their size. Most do not have a fuzzy choke.
Bend back lower, outer petals of artichokes until they snap off easily near base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom).
Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
Halve or quarter as desired. If center petals are purple or pink remove center petals and fuzzy centers. Dip or rub all surfaces with lemon juice.
Preparing fresh artichokes for cooking can be intimidating. Luckily, preserved versions of this spring vegetable are just as delicious. Here are a few ways to use artichokes, whether fresh, jarred or frozen.
Whole. Steaming whole artichokes to serve with butter or mayonnaise mixed with capers, lemon and smoked paprika. Or, stuff them with your favorite stuffing mix.
Sauteed. When cooked, the leaves on trimmed fresh artichokes fan out and get crisp.
Grilled. Boil trimmed artichokes until tender, then finish them on the grill to give them a smoky flavor.
Pasta sauce. Simmer oil-packed artichokes in cream, then puree for a luxurious pasta sauce.
Bread pudding. Layer marinated artichokes with sourdough cubes and cheese, then cover with eggs and milk and bake for a savory brunch dish.
Dip. Instead of the usual cream cheese base, use Greek yogurt and silken tofu in a healthy version of creamy artichoke dip.
Involtini. Roll up marinated artichoke hearts with celery leaves in smoked salmon for a super healthy hors d’oeuvres.
Pizza. Marinate frozen artichoke hearts in herbed olive oil and add them to a white pizza or a pizza with the works.
Sautéed Artichokes and Potatoes
- 8 artichokes (they should be firm and feel solid)
- Juice of a half a lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- Salt to taste
- 3 pounds baby potatoes
- A bunch parsley, minced
- Pepper to taste
If the potatoes are young and thin skinned, wash and rub them with a rough cloth. Otherwise, peel them and cut in half.
Trim the tough outer leaves off the artichokes, cut the tops off (perpendicular to the length of the artichoke) and cut them into eighths, putting the slices into water acidulated with lemon juice to keep them from turning black.
When you have finished cutting them up, pat them dry and sauté them in a large skillet with a cover with the oil, garlic, salt and minced parsley. Begin over a low heat, covered, and after a little while uncover them and turn them often so they cook well on all sides, browning and almost coming apart. Remove the artichokes with a slotted spoon to another bowl and set aside.
Add the potatoes with a half cup of water to the skillet. Let them cook gently at first, covering the pot so that they soften, and then raise the heat and uncover them to brown them.
Once the potatoes have browned, add the artichokes together with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about ten minutes over a very low flame.
Grilled Baby Artichokes
- Lemon Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
- 12 baby artichokes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Prepare the Lemon Vinaigrette; set aside until ready to use.
Bend back lower, outer petals of the artichokes until they snap off easily near the base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom). Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add prepared baby artichokes and cook approximately 7 to 10 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork, but they still offer some resistance. Drain and immediately and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking.
When cool, cut the baby artichokes in half lengthwise, sprinkle them with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare an outdoor grill. Place the artichokes cut side down on oiled grill grates, cover with the grill lid, and cook over a medium-hot fire, for about 5 minutes, or until the cut sides are well browned. Remove the artichokes to a bowl and pour the Lemon Vinaigrette over the grilled artichokes and toss.
This can be served right away, but it is much better to let them sit for an hour or so in the vinaigrette for the flavors to mingle. They will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 3 days. .
Makes 4 servings.
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped pitted black olives
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, olives and pepper. Whisk together well.
Artichoke Cheese Pizzas
This is one of our favorite pizzas. Since I use convenient frozen artichoke hearts, this recipe can be made any time of the year.
- One 9 ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained, cut in half
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- One homemade or store-bought pizza dough
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese
- Freshly ground pepper
In a large skillet, combine the artichoke hearts with the olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic and thyme leaves. Season with salt. Cook until the artichokes are soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Dust a pizza pan with cornmeal and stretch dough to fit the pan.
Spread the ricotta cheese over the dough and sprinkle the fontina and mozzarella cheese over the ricotta.
Distribute the cooked artichoke hearts and sauce over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and place the pizza to the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are browned. Serve hot.
This is my favorite way to stuff artichokes.
For 2-double ingredients for 4
- 1 lemon
- 2 medium artichokes
- 1 1/4 cups plain panko crumbs
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, reserve the stems
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 minced garlic cloves, divided
- 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
- 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Half small onion sliced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill a bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon into the water and reserve the lemon shell. Cut off the artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with lemon shell (this prevents browning) and drop them into the lemon water.
Use a heavy, sharp stainless steel knife to cut the top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon to scoop out the choke.
Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub the lemon shell over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
To prepare stuffing:
In a large bowl combine the panko crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, half the garlic, capers, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss.
In a small roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the artichokes, scatter onion slices, artichoke stems, parsley sprigs and remaining garlic.
Holding artichokes over the stuffing bowl, stuff each choke cavity and in between the leaves with the bread crumb mixture.
Stand stuffed artichokes upright in the baking dish and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.
Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 of the way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt to the water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.
Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should be easily inserted into the artichoke and a leaf should be easily pulled out.
Halibut with Braised Artichokes, Fennel and Lemon
- 2 lemons
- 1 9 oz package frozen artichokes, defrosted
- 1 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed or ground
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating fish
- 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 halibut fillets or any white firm fish (each about 6 ounces and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
- Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon crosswise into very thin slices.
Put onion, fennel, artichokes, coriander, reserved lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoons salt, 4 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan.
Cover pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.
Combine flour with remaining salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge fish in flour.
In the same pan heat the remaining tablespoon oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook fillets, without moving them, until the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes.
Carefully turn the fish and cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more. Return artichoke mixture to the pan and warm a minute or two.
To serve: spoon 1/2 cup of the artichoke mixture onto each serving plate and top with a fish fillet. Garnish with basil.
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