This week, I have a simple suggestion: indulge in an artichoke (or two) with your person.
In California, where I live, 99.99% of all the artichokes enjoyed in the U.S. are grown in the state. I’m not sure where the other .01% are coming from, but thanks to the landslide percentage they are also the state vegetable, and a classy one at that.
I mean, how many vegetables can serve as a stand alone snacking event? Well, lots I guess. But artichokes have some extra flair and can make you feel like you’ve ordered a fancy appetizer at an Italian restaurant without leaving home.
As a matter of fact, Jane Grigson once said, “The artichoke above all is the vegetable expression of civilised living, of the long view, of increasing delight by anticipation and crescendo. No wonder it was once regarded as an aphrodisiac.” Eep!
So yeah, I’d say artichokes are simply the date night vegetable.
And lucky for all of us, April kicks off artichoke season. So, keep a look out for the season’s best!
The Perfect Artichoke
If you’re not yet an artichoke fan and don’t know where to start, let me share some tips to get you started.
First things first, look for an artichoke where the “leaves” are tightly packed (like the ones above). If they look like they’re opening or blooming like a flower would, it means the artichoke is not fresh.
- Slice off the top of the artichoke, as well as the sharp point on the tip of each leaf. You can do this with a serrated knife or kitchen scissors (which is easier for cutting off the tips).
- Trim the stem right below the body of the artichoke.
- There are many ways to prepare them, but my go-to is to steam them, top down in a steamer basket. I put two inches of water in the base of the pot, along with a few slices of lemon, garlic cloves, and salt. I bring it to a boil, then drop the heat and let it simmer for 45-ish minutes (it’s worth the wait!). You’ll know it’s done when you can put a fork or butter knife in the base and face no resistance.
- Once steamed through, remove from the steamer basket and let cool for a few minutes. While you’re waiting you can mix up something to dip it in. I like just plain melted butter, or mayo with a little balsamic vinegar mixed in.
- If you’ve never had an artichoke before, one thing that’s important to know is you don’t eat the whole leaf. Just peel off one leaf at a time and only eat the tip that was closest to the stem by scraping it with your teeth (there’s no not-weird way to explain this, sorry!). This becomes second nature very quickly and you will likely be sad when all the leaves are gone.
- But don’t despair! You’ve still got the best part ahead of you! Once you get down to the purple, soft silky petals, pull them off and throw them away. Then using a sharp knife cut under the wispy/spiky part (that’s the choke). Throw that away too! Now, you’ve reached the artichoke heart!
- You can cut it up into smaller pieces and it’s delicious on its own or dipped just like the leaves.
That’s pretty much all there is to it!
So enjoy and eat your little artichoke hearts out!
(sorry. can’t help myself)