I love artichokes more than is rational. I may, hypothetically, own 12 of these:
Yes, I am aware this makes me an insane person. Right up until I have a dinner party for 12 and serve everyone artichokes on artichoke plates and then I am a GENIUS.
Artichokes are magical to me. A large artichoke packs 9g of fiber, 5g of protein, no fat or cholesterol. It is high in Vitamin C and Magnesium, with some bonus Iron, Calcium, and B-12 hanging out in there. And best part? ONLY 75 calories for the whole thing!
Okay, thats not the best best part. The bestest best part is that they are freaking delicious. I literally cannot get enough of them, and from mid-April thru June, Charming Suitor and I gorge guiltlessly on these beauties.
Yes, this is for two people.
I buy them 8 at a time. The first day I get them, I prep and steam them, and CS and I have two each for dinner. He will take one to work the next day for lunch, and I'll eat one at home for lunch. The other two are then available for a day or two for either lunches or snacking or to become an ingredient in something else. 8 artichokes last us about three to four days. And we do this routine once a week until the season is over. And then we miss them until the following Spring. These are the weeks that prove your love for someone, because do not mistake me, this is a lot of fiber and vegetation to put through your system, and they will, without fail, make you spectacularly gassy. You might potentially blow the love of your life out of the bed. But they will forgive you because artichokes are so yummy that it will not matter that you both become walking dirty bombs for eight weeks a year.
For those of you who think artichokes are complicated, they are not. I've had a lot of practice, so I can break one down in about 45 seconds to a minute, but once you know the technique, you can knock it out fast yourself. Don't be scared of the artichoke! It will reward you.
When buying them, look for ones that feel heavy for their size, have leaves that are nice and tight, and they should squeak a little when you squeeze them.
First thing, have a large cutting board, an 8 inch serrated knife (essential) and a lemon, cut in half. Do not do this with a straight edge knife, you need the serration for grippiness. Trust me, you'd like to keep all of your fingers. This is a great time to use that sad little mangy lemon in the bottom of the fruit bowl. The artichokes won't care. Hold the artichoke on its side, and slice off the stem flush with the bottom of the artichoke to make it fairly flat. Let chefs peel and fuss over the stems, as CS says, the juice isn't worth the squeeze on that, go for fast and easy instead. Once the stem is removed, use the knife on a slight angle to slice off the outer leaves and reveal the heart. Go all the way around the bottom of the artichoke, it will take about 6 slices to have the bottom totally peeled. Rub the cut side of half a lemon on the bottom. Then turn it back on its side and slice straight down about 2/3 up the side, removing all the spiny top parts of the leaves in one go. Rub the lemon on the cut ends of the leaves, and you will have a prepped artichoke!
I use a large steamer, but you can use a steamer basket in a stockpot, or a steamer insert. Place your artichokes bottoms up in your steamer, with about 2 inches of water in the pot.
You don't want to boil them or let them touch the water, or the leaves will soak it up and get waterlogged. Cover and steam over high heat for about 35-40 minutes. I test by poking a fork into the bottom of one, it should go in and out smoothly. I don't use a knife to test things like artichokes or potatoes because my knives are super sharp and may slip right into something that is actually not quite done yet. Forks are a much better indicator.
Aren't they just gorgeous? I take them off the heat and place them over a towel for about 15 minutes. Then I put the four we are having tonight on a plate with a piece of plastic wrap, they'll be terrific at room temp, and put the other four in the containers in the fridge for later indulging.
I know many people swear by drawn butter for dipping. And you know your Polymath is a big fan of butter. Mo' butter, mo' better. But not for artichokes. Artichokes are buttery on their own, much like avocados. They want a little acid and a little salt to make them shine. I make vats of a pungent thick vinaigrette that we use for dipping.
I don't measure, I just go by eye. This is the juice of 1 1/2 lemons, 2 heaping spoons of capers, a large glug or two of dijon mustard, and one chopped up shallot. Then I pour in about twice as much oil as I have stuff in the bottom, and use my immersion blender to whizz it all up. Taste for seasoning, adjust as necessary. I like this much more intense than I would make for salad dressing, you should do what you like. This is making a huge vat of it, because as I may have mentioned, we eat eleventy million artichokes a week, and this stuff lasts a couple of weeks in the fridge. You should feel free to make a rational amount if you choose. You don't need a lot, I only use about 1 tablespoon for a whole artichoke for dipping, you just want to gild the lily a bit.
For me, the first artichokes of the season are the only thing that really means Spring, and after this winter? Seeing them today almost made me tear up a bit.
What are the super seasonal things you wait all year for, and how do you prepare them?
Yours in Good Taste,