Thursday, April 12, 2012

Steamed Artichokes

All year long my kids beg me to make artichokes for dinner. When they are in season (in the spring) I usually relent. They really are quite easy to prepare and the kids have fun pulling them apart leaf by leaf and scraping the "goodness" off between their teeth.

I always serve artichokes with my homemade vinaigrette. We like that much better than the traditional melted butter or hollandaise sauce. If you've never tried steamed artichokes, give them a try. They're a family favorite.

Steamed Artichokes

1. Wash artichokes under cold water.
2. Cut off the stem of the artichoke close to the base.
3. Remove any of the lower petals which are withered, discolored, or small.
4. With a sharp knife slice approximately one inch off the top of the artichoke.
5. With kitchen shears, cut thorny tips off the top of each remaining leaf.
6. Dip the cut edges in lemon juice to preserve color. Cook them immediately.

I like to steam my artichokes, but I don't have a steamer large enough to do four at a time. Instead, I put about an inch of water in a large pot, add the artichokes upside down, and bring the water to a boil. At this point, I turn the heat down and maintain a simmer until the artichokes are tender when the bottoms are pierced with a sharp knife (25-35 minutes depending on their size.)

Julia Child in The Way to Cook has the best description of how to eat an artichoke:
"Start with the leaves at the bottom of the artichoke. Remove one and, holding it by the top, dip the large bottom end into the sauce, then scrape off the tender flesh between your teeth. When you come to the tender cone of central leaves, pull off the cone, and eat the bottom portion. Where you removed the cone is a cluster of small leaves under which is a hairy growth, the choke, that covers the deliciously edible bottom of the artichoke."
This is always the most competitive part of artichoke eating in my family--seeing who can cut the choke away from the heart and keep it in one piece. When this is successfully accomplished, we cut the heart into bite-size pieces and dip each one into the vinaigrette. Delicious!

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