Cooking Baby Artichokes

Artichokes seem like a scary vegetable when you first look at them all prickly and closed up. But they are easier to conquer than they look.

Truth be told, I used to avoid cooking artichokes until I started getting them in my organic deliveries. I’m very against wasting food, so I had to figure out what to do with them once they (literally) showed up at my door.

Of course, I get all excited thinking I’m going to make some fancy schmancy artichoke dip or something, and then end up just giving them the funny-eyeball for a few days before touching them.

My relationship with the once daunting artichoke has changed a lot since then, though. I have found a few very simple ways to make them that seem to work out just right for me.

First things first, mine are delivered, but if you’re picking them in the store you’ll need to know what you’re looking for. Tight, small heads without browning or bruising are ideal. They should be firm in the center area, but the leaves can be a little loose since you’ll snip those off anyway.

 

For almost any recipe, your prep will start the same. You will need to:

  • Snip off tough outer leaves
  • Clip the tips from remaining leaves
  • Cut off top quarter
  • Trim off woody stem
  • (see above picture)

From there, you can decide how you want to cook it. I have found that the simplest ways are plenty for artichokes because they have an amazing flavor all on their own.

Braise: Heat 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet; add baby artichokes and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup each white wine (or dry vermouth) and water and 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or rosemary or tarragon). Bring to a simmer; cover, reduce heat and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Grill: Halve artichokes, scoop out the choke if necessary, then toss with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt. Pre-heat grill. Place the artichokes over direct, medium-high heat and cook, turning once or twice, until tender, about 8 minutes.

Microwave: Place artichokes in a large glass pie pan or baking dish, add 1⁄2 cup white wine (or dry vermouth), 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Cover tightly and microwave on High until tender, about 8 minutes.

Steam: Place artichokes in a steamer basket over 2 inches of water in a large pot set over high heat. Cover and steam until tender, about 15 minutes.

*there’s a neat cross-over here too where you can steam them in the microwave. Use a microwave steamer bag (like the kind from ziploc), add a little butter, lemon juice and pepper directly on the artichokes and steam for roughly 7 minutes. Check to be sure they are soft and tender to know if they are done.

 

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