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All about Artichokes: How to select, prepare, store and cook them

  • Tuesday, 16 January 2018
  • linda

There are some vegetables that just don’t get the love they deserve. You see them in the store and think, “What do I do with that?” and keep walking. One veggie that often gets that response is the artichoke. It just looks … complicated. With all those tough leaves layered like a hard shell, artichokes look more like hand grenades than food. But if you give edible flowers a chance, you’ll see that they aren’t hard to work with at all.

They just need a little love, a little attention and they will reward you with a delicious dish that will leave you wondering why it took you so long to get on the artichoke train.Here are some tips on how to choose, prepare, and cook with the seasonal spring beauty that is the artichoke.

artichokes

  1. Selection and Storage

When choosing artichokes, pick them up and get a feel for the weight. You must select the ones that feel solid and heavy because the older they get the lighter they feel. The leaves should be thick and tightly closed, and the colour deep green. The leaves, they should squeak when you rub them. Older artichokes have opened dry, or cracked leaves.

Does size matter? That all depends on which part of the artichoke you like most. If you love the leaves, small artichokes are more tender and sweeter. If the heart is your favourite part, larger artichokes have larger hearts. Baby artichokes look adorable, are sweet, tender, and easier to prep.

Store the artichokes in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to a week.

Bowl with artichokes web

  1. Prepping

Prepping the artichokes is a bit time-consuming but it isn’t hard. Your tools will be a both a sharp knife and kitchen shears. To get out any grit hidden in the leaves, you first want to rinse the artichokes in cool water, Give it some zest by adding a bit of lemon juice to it, The add the artichokes to the water and let them swim for a bit. Before continuing your prep work.

Next, you have to work on the stems. Artichokes have thick stems. If you want to keep them, just trim them and peel off the hard exterior. Usually, people use a sharp knife to cut the stems because then off so the artichokes will stand up.Now you cut off the top 1 inch of the artichokes. Pull off any dry, tough leaves around the stem area. Using your shears, you trim about a 1/4 inch off the hard, thorny leaf tips. The artichokes are now ready to stuff or cook. Best to submerge the prepped artichokes in lemon water while you work on the next one until you’re ready to cook. This will prevent the leaves from browning. Once all your artichokes are ready to cook, you can get creative, like with this

Artichoke cut web

  1. The Heart of the Matter

If you want to get to the hearts of the artichoke, there’s a little more work to do. Below the bundle of white and purple leaves lies a bed of hairy-looking filaments called the choke. All of the chokes must be removed or it will make you choke … literally. The choke can be removed either before or after steaming the artichokes.

You first need to remove the inner sharp leaves in the center of the artichoke before you can remove the choke.  Use a spoon, paring knife, or melon baller to scrape out the fuzzy choke in the center. Then you have reached the artichoke heart. Now you know why a can or jar of artichoke hearts is usually so expensive. You can use artichoke hearts to make this yummy Artichoke & Parmesan Salad

Artichoke heart web

  1. TLC

Artichokes are pretty tough, so they need to be boiled or steamed to make them tender before using them in recipes. This you can also do before getting the hearts out as it makes it a bit easier. To boil them, simply add your prepared artichokes to a large pot of boiling salted water or broth. Turn the heat down and let them simmer, covered, for about thirty minutes, or until you can easily pull a leaf out from the center or if you knife easily slips into the center.  If you want, you can also flavour the liquid the artichokes will cook in.

To steam them, set up a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water and place the artichokes in it for 30 minutes. Simmer the pot of water and test the same as for boiling the artichokes.

The tender artichokes are now ready to be used in any recipes or eaten as is. How do you eat an artichoke, you ask? Just pull off a leaf and scrape the “meat” with your teeth. A favourite way of enjoying artichokes is dipping the leaves first in a dipping sauce and eat with crusty bread like melba toast. Try your artichoke hearts with this recipe below. Yum! 

artichokes friends eating

Most of what you need is in your pantry:

  • One third lemon juice
  • Two-thirds olive oil
  • A scoop Dijon mustard
  •  Black Pepper & salt to taste

How to  prepare the dipping sauce:

  • Whisk till it emulsifies properly.
  • Halve the artichokes and boil for 40 minutes with 1tsp salt.
  • Drain. Let cool slightly.
  • Start peeling the outside leaves.
  • The “choke” is the hairy part. Use a teaspoon to remove this to get to the valuable “heart”.
  • Dress the hearts in the sauce and toss while still warm.

Eat with melba toast or as is.

Slooowly.

 

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