I’ve always been the type of person to save the best for last. I’d rather get the dirty work done first, so I can relax and enjoy the rest of my day. This, of course, also translates into my food habits. Sandwich crusts are the first to get eaten, along with muffin bottoms and crispy edges of brownies to leave the better bits for maximum enjoyment. Even when I have a bowl of ice cream, I run my spoon along the melting outside, scraping as I roll the scoop around my bowl until I reach the last, creamy, perfect spoonful at the center.
Wow. I’m sounding like a complete crazy person. I guess the point is that while I’ve gotten older and arguably wiser (?) certain habits have still stayed true: I’m still going to save the best for last.
So even though artichokes take a bit of extra work, they fit in nicely with my nonsensical food rituals. You work your way around the less desirable, tougher leaves, plucking each one and scraping off more and more delicious meat, leaving the best bits for last. It’s like hunting for gold and the prize is a tender, meaty, delicious artichoke heart. Plus did you know artichokes are technically a flower? Look at these gorgeous little thistles! Cute, right? So even if they need a couple extra steps than your average garden vegetable, they are most certainly worth the effort in my book.
I was originally looking up recipes to roast the artichokes, but I instead went for boiling. Now while this isn’t the sexiest form of cooking, according to Amanda of Decoding Delicious, boiling is best for retaining moisture, ease of cooking, and flavor. I appreciate anyone who is willing to do the recipe testing for me, and after trying it twice myself, I definitely agree that they are flavorful, moist and delicious. Pick up some artichokes from the farmers market and let me know if you agree!
Artichokes with Lemon, Garlic, & Basil (from Decoding Delicious)
2 medium-sized artichokes
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic (10-12 cloves), peeled and chopped in half
20-24 basil leaves (one per garlic chunk)
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
2 Tbsp. butter
Fill a large pot almost entirely full of water- enough to submerge both artichokes- and add salt, pepper, and the rind of 2 lemons to the water. Cover and bring to a medium boil. While your water is coming to a boil, cut one of your lemons in half to be used to rub on any parts of the artichoke you cut to prevent browning (you can also keep a bowl of ice water with lemon to do the same thing). Then, take a kitchen knife and cut off the top of the artichoke, rubbing lemon on the cut leaves as you go. Using kitchen shears or scissors, trim off the spiny top of the remaining leaves, (approx 1/4-1/2 inch) and remove any brown or tiny leaves near the base. Cut the very base of the artichoke stem off, and trim back the tough outer layer with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.
After each artichoke is prepped, gently loosen and spread out the leaves. Drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice over the top. Peel and cut each garlic clove in half, and take each half and wrap a basil leaf. Tuck each basil wrapped garlic into the artichoke leaves, until you have approximately ten in each artichoke. Don’t forget to include at least one in the center.
Add both artichokes to the boiling water and weigh it down by using a heatproof lid, dish or bowl (artichokes float). This is probably the most difficult part, and I found that an upside-down metal strainer works great at keeping the artichokes submerged. Cover the pot and bring to a medium boil. Boil gently for about 20 minutes.
While the artichokes are boiling, melt butter and add to lemon juice for a simple dipping sauce to serve on the side. The artichoke is done when a knife inserted into the base meets no resistance. Drain upside-down for a few minutes before serving with the lemon butter sauce.
As you are eating, remember that when you get to the center, remove the spiny purplish center leaves and the inedible fuzzy part called the ‘choke’. It is easily done after cooking with a spoon or knife, and the remaining heart is the most tender, delicious part. Cut into pieces and enjoy!