Spring is a harbinger for so many happy foods and one of my very favorites is the plump and deep green artichoke! Although it appears spiny and intimidating (it is, after all, a member of the thistle family) once you have plucked away it's armor, and revealed its tender striated heart, you will find it entirely endearing! If baby artichokes aren't available (their season is short) by all means use the larger ones. I have included cooking directions for both.
12 baby artichokes
4 ounces unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon salt (I love truffle salt for this!)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 or 2 sprigs of rosemary
Prepare the artichokes according to the Basic Prep and Cooking for Artichokes (see below).
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter until it sizzles. Add the garlic, salt and lemon juice. Remove from the heat. Serve in heated ramekins, or small butter warmers, swirled with the rosemary sprigs.
Serve the artichokes piled on plates with the dipping sauce on the side.
Basic Prep and Cooking for Artichokes
To cook large artichokes: (simple method)
Snap off the discolored outer leaves, by pulling backwards, away from the body, and discard. With a sharp knife, cut off about 1 inch off the spikey top and if you would like, cut off the tips of the rest of the leaves with a pair of kitchen shears. To prevent the artichokes turning brown as you prep them, rub the cut edges with lemon, or submerge in a cold water bath with a little lemon. Bring a large pot ofsalted water,into which a couple of lemons have been squeezed, to a boil and cook for 18-25 minutes or until the leaves pull away very easily. You may season the water with bay leaves or other herbs.
To serve: Spread the leaves apart to reveal the inner"choke". With the tip of a spoon, scrape away the tough furry center. Serve artichokes warm, room temperature or chilled.Pull the leaves away, dip in butter, aioli or your favorite recipe, and scrape the flesh from the base with your teeth. When you have removed all of the leaves, you have reached the prized heart, which can be cut into wedges and dipped or stuffed with your favorite filling.
To cook baby artichokes: (simple method)
Snap off the outer leaves until you are left with about a 1-inch wide innerartichoke. (You can steam the leaves you've removed and scrape off the flesh with your teeth or just nibble on them raw.) Cut off about 1/2 inch of the spikey top, cut off the stem and trim away any ragged edges around the base. You may cut them in half or cook them whole. To prevent the artichokes turning brown as you prep them, rub the cut edges with lemon, or submerge in a cold water bath with a little lemon.Baby artichokes can be grilled, sautéed, steamed or simmered. To simmer them: Bring a pot of salted water, into which a couple of lemons have been squeezed, to a rolling simmer, add the artichokes and cover the pot. Cook for 10-12 minutes for whole and 7-8 minutes for halvesor until a knife tip inserted into the base reveals it is tender.
You may season the water with bay leaves or other herbs.
To serve: The tough and furry "choke" in baby artichokes has not fully developed, so you can eat the whole inner fruit. Serve artichokes warm, room temperature or chilled. Toss them with a vinaigrette, offer a dipping sauce or serve with soft or freshly grated cheese.