I was in my early teens when I first read a recipe for steamed fresh artichokes. At the time, they weren’t nearly as common as they are now; back then, they seemed exotic. I was pleasantly surprised when my mom and I found them at a local grocery store and, of course, we had to buy some.
At home, I carefully followed the step by step instructions on how to prepare them. My mom and I sat down to eat them, again having to follow the instructions (how many foods do you eat that you’re not sure how to do so?), and from that day on, we were hooked.
Sure, you can buy artichoke hearts canned, frozen or marinated in jars, and I do. But the joy of eating an entire artichoke is somewhat of a ritual, which is maybe why it appeals to my OCD personality.
First off, when buying fresh artichokes, here’s what to look for:
- Fresh green or purple color, with very little browning on the tips of the leaves
- It should feel firm and compact when you squeeze its sides, but beware the spiny little tips on the leaves…they hurt!
- Carefully spread apart some of the leaves and inspect the insides for brown spots or bugs
Once you’ve got your beautiful little globe home, here’s some tips on how to prepare them:
Place your artichoke on its side on a cutting board and get a good sharp knife. Depending on your knife, a serrated one may work best at cutting through the fibrous leaves.
Starting at the base of the artichoke, you want to break off all of the smaller leaves on the outside of the artichoke, then trim the broken area off with your knife:
Once you’ve removed the small outside leaves, you want to cut off the stem:
Now, turn your attention to the top of the artichoke and cut off about 1 inch from the top of it:
Now, if you’re serving these to guests or just like to be fancy-schmancy, you want to take a pair of kitchen shears and trim off the edges of the sharp leaves that are still left on your ‘choke. Okay, okay, I don’t always do this when I make them for myself – it’s an aesthetic thing. There, now isn’t that just lovely?
Just two more tips that will help them steam a little faster and more evenly:
Take your fingers and gently pry apart the center of the leaves, to open up the middle of the artichoke:
And last, but not least, turn it over and cut an “X” in the bottom of the heart. (Yes! That’s the artichoke heart down there!)
Now you’re ready to steam them!
Here’s your basic “How to Steam an Artichoke” recipe:
- Take a large pot and fill it with about 2 inches of water
- Splash in a tablespoon or two of white vinegar
- Add your artichokes
- Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until done
Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky – depending on the size and density of your artichokes, they could take anywhere from 30 -45 minutes to fully cook. The best way to tell if they’re done is to simply tug on a leaf from the the center of it. If it pulls out easily, it’s done. If not…keep steaming.
Once your ‘chokes are ready, serve hot with some lemon garlic butter, hollandaise, or favorite sauce.
So that’s the basic technique. Here’s how to mix it up a bit:
- Add flavored vinegar, a tablespoon or two of olive oil and some dried herbs. This is a great way to do make them if you want to chill them after cooking and eat them cold. (I love them this way!)
- Add some sliced onions, crushed garlic, fresh herbs and/or lemon juice to the water for added flavor
- Cut freshly steamed artichokes in half and pop them under the broiler or on the grill for a few minutes to add a nice smokey flavor to them
Do you have any favorite ways to cook artichokes? I’d love to hear them! And of course, let me know if you love them or hate them. I think you’ll love them! Enjoy.