Recipe: Globe artichokes are a prickly treasure
What is this ugly, prickly, bulbous thing? It’s a globe artichoke. (Not a Jerusalem artichoke, which is a root vegetable related to the sunflower). An artichoke is the unopened, immature flower bud of the thistle family. Left to mature, they open to a huge and distinctive purple flower. They really are a unique vegetable, native to the Mediterranean, and grown in the U.S. almost entirely on the West Coast. The ones we see in markets now are usually from perennial plants. We can grow a slightly different variety here from seed, but they will not winter over, and they don’t really like our climate.
If artichokes are unfamiliar to you, they’re a bit daunting if you’re served one and don’t know how to tackle it. I love the description from my old Joy of Cooking (1963): It sounds so clinical, yet I couldn’t describe it better! “The leaves are dipped, one at a time, in a sauce and the lower end is simply pulled through the teeth to extract the tender edible portion… until the cone of light colored leaves appears. Pull this up… lift the fuzzy center (the choke) out and discard it. Eat the remaining heart with a fork, dipping each piece in sauce first.”
When our children were youngsters, they used to love eating the leaves, but balk at the heart. We always “helped out,” as we thought the heart was the best part.
Artichokes are sold in all different sizes. They’re seasonal, with the main, larger crop in spring to early summer. There’s sometimes a smaller crop in the fall. The plant is large, and depending on its age, one or more long stalks emerge from the center of the plant. The largest artichoke is born at the top of the stalk. Progressively smaller ‘chokes appear farther down. The little tiny ones at the base of the plant, some as small as walnuts, are delicious whole, shorn of the dark outer leaves and either boiled, braised, or deep fried.
Most all-purpose cookbooks now have lots of suggestions for cooking and serving both large and baby artichokes. The simple recipe for today will get you started. This is the way I usually do them. The preparation is easy but the cooking takes awhile.
Purchase one artichoke per person, unless they’re small, or you’re just using the leaves as an appetizer.
Rinse well and set upside down to drain.
To prepare, cut off stem end at base of globe.
Pull off heavy, tough leaves at base.
Cut off top 1/4- to 1/3- of entire globe and then trim off the thorny tops of each leaf with scissors.
Peel and slice into relatively even pieces as much garlic as you want. (We use two or three cloves per globe).
Place these down between the leaves.
Place the prepared ‘chokes in a non aluminum pot large enough to hold them sitting upright.
Add several slices of lemon and a tablespoon or so of peppercorns to the pot.
Add about 1 teaspoon of salt and some olive oil (about one tablespoon per globe) to the pot.
Add boiling water to about 1/2 way up the ’choke, cover tightly. Watch the water. Don’t let it boil away.
Simmer until a leaf pulled from the choke is tender, which will take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours or more, depending on size, age, and density of the chokes.
Serve hot or cold with a dipping sauce: mayonnaise, hollandaise, melted butter and lemon, or a vinaigrette.
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.