Artichokes are Underrated
I’m always shocked when people tell me they don’t like artichokes. But, then again, there are so many poor examples of canned artichokes on the market—limp, tasteless leaves steeped in sunflower oil—that I really can’t blame them (but you might have guessed that we have a great recommendation for you).
Nutritionally speaking, artichokes are low in calories and full of nutrients: fiber, vitamin C, folate, magnesium. Artichokes also contain some of the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants among fresh vegetables.
And conquer your fear of working with raw artichokes. LTBB has clear guidelines on how to tackle those prickly leaves!
Season: March-May, October
FRESH Choose artichokes that have a bright green color (minimal dark patches) with tightly-packed leaves and a cut-end of the base doesn’t look too dark. A good artichoke should also feel heavy for its size.
CANNED We have yet to find a mainstream store brand of artichokes that doesn’t leave us disappointed. We guarantee you will not be disappointed by the Masseria Maida artichokes—they’re pricey but worth it. Buy a few jars for the winter pantry and dole them out only to the friends that bring good wine, ha. And if you prefer to spend effort over money, making your own marinated artichokes is not as daunting as it seems once you get a little technique down.
I know, preparing fresh artichokes feels like a three-hour surgery. All those prickly leaves and peeling and scooping. But when they’re good, they’re the best. I always think back on the artichokes the Italians make—stuffed with garlic and bread crumbs, and drizzled with olive oil—and baked until the fleshy pulp slides right off the leaf and dissolves in your mouth with a lemony kick. Once in a while American chefs will prepare artichokes this way—with a bit of garlic aioli on the side for dipping, of course!
Baby artichokes are much easier to clean than the big boys (you don’t usually have to remove any choke, or furry inner core), but they can be harder to find. Some tips for preparing the big ones:
- Prepare a large bowl of water with the juice of one lemon in it. Make sure not to add too much lemon juice as it will ultimately give the delicate artichoke a strong lemon flavor.
- Peel off the tough outer leaves of the artichoke until you reach the tender, yellow-colored inner leaves.
- Slice the artichoke across its midway point where it starts to curve toward the tips of the leaves (the tips are more coarse than the heart). Avoid retaining any purple part of the leaf as it can remain tough.
- Make a fresh cut across the base of the stem. Using the yellow inner core as your guideline, use a paring knife to remove the fibrous green portion that surrounds it, slicing from the base toward the heart. If you accidentally slice the stem off, just toss it in as a separate piece to the mix.
- Trim any remaining tough portions around the base of the heart.
- If you’re cooking the artichokes whole, insert the serrated side of a melon baller into the base to scrape out the fuzzy choke. If you’re cutting the artichokes into bite-size pieces, cut the artichoke in half and remove the choke; then cut it into smaller pieces as desired.
- Place immediately in lemon water to prevent discoloration as you work on the rest of the artichokes.
- Remove from lemon water and follow the Roasted Artichokes recipe below.
Here we offer two recipes, the first for fresh artichokes and the second for canned (though the fresh, once cooked by you, can always substitute for the canned).