Your friend, the Artichoke

I was speaking with my cashier at the market the other day and she asked me how to prepare an artichoke. I told her and then realized that someone, somewhere had shown me what to do. I agree. It is not self-evident, but artichokes are a tasty treat not to be missed.

In the 16th century, this tasty morsel was reserved for men only, because it was believed to be an aphrodisiac. Of course, everyone believed that the earth was flat at that time, too. The artichoke has a mysterious past, though likely came into being in either Sicily or Tunisia. From there it spread like wildfire around the Mediterranean, and didn’t go any further for a long, long time. Lucky for us, the Italians who left Italy, brought their beloved artichokes with them.

I’ve heard that there are 101 ways to prepare an artichoke. For me, there is only one: the simple and easy way. One last thing, if it squeaks when you squeeze it, buy it. If it doesn’t don’t.

How to prepare an artichoke

Like roses, artichokes have little thorns that can cause harm. There’s a simple answer for that: cut them off! A regular pair of scissors works just fine.

Cutting off thorns

  • Fill a pot with a tight-fitting lid and a steamer insert with about 1 inch of water. You should see the water just above the steamer bottom.
  • Once the thorns are cut off every leaf, place the artichoke(s) sideways in the pot, cover and steam for 10 minutes.
  • Flip the artichokes to the opposite side, cover and steam for 10 more minutes.
  • That should do it. You know it’s done when a leaf comes off with a slight tug.
  • Cool down then place in fridge to chill for at least an hour.

How to serve an artichoke

There! You’ve got this cooked, thorn-free, chilled green thing. Now what?

  • Put it on an artichoke-sized serving plate. Have a bowl to collect the finished leaves.
  • Artichokes taste great plain, but a dipping sauce is always appreciated. If you’re going for very easy, simply use a salad dressing like Italian or Cesar as a dip. You can also use mayonnaise with just enough lemon juice to make it salad dressing consistency for dipping (add capers for extra bonus points).
  • Pull one leaf free, dip (if inclined) then drag your teeth across the bottom fleshy part on the inside of the leaf. People can use top or bottom teeth. I’ve seen it both ways. Personally, I’m a top teeth user. Your teeth marks will be apparent on the leaf. It looks like this after.
Top teeth markings
  • When you finish with the leaves, you’ll hit a furry part. Simply scrape the furry parts gently away with a spoon to reveal the artichoke heart. You can break it in pieces using your hands or cut with a knife. Delicious!
To get to the heart

Artichokes are great as a shared appetizer or you can prepare one for each person. This may not be suitable food for first dates. Maybe.

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