With spring just around the corner, there will soon be a bounty of produce in season. You can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals fresh from your garden or from the farmer’s market.
Artichokes are a prime spring crop, coming into peak season from March to May. They make a delicious addition to salads, pastas, and rice dishes, and they are great to enjoy on their own, either steamed, boiled or baked with a little butter and some seasonings.
However, the tight, spiky leaves of the artichoke are a little confusing for some cooks, who aren’t sure how to prepare the healthful veggie to create the most delicious dish. Here are a few basic ttips for how to cut and cook an artichoke:
Choose the Best Artichokes
The first step to a good artichoke dish is to choose the best fruits. Artichokes should have tight leaves and a rich green color. The leaves should not be split, and they should squeak when they are rubbed.
Smaller artichokes will cook up more tender, making them better choices for steamed or boiled dishes. Larger artichokes will have bigger hearts, making them better choices for salads and paella.
Prepare the Artichoke
Only wash the artichoke when you are ready to cook it. Moisture will cause the artichokes to spoil, so you don’t want to wash them and then store them.
Use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip the tips off each leaf. You should then use a large kitchen knife to cut about an inch off the tip of the fruit and to cut off the stem. If you are planning to boil or bake your artichoke, you can stop at this step before cooking.
If you are planning to use the hearts of the artichoke, you can skip cutting the tips off the leaves and go straight to removing the leaves. Once you get to the leaves in the center, you can cut off about an inch off the top, revealing the center. Use a knife to cut away any jagged edges or remnants of the outer leaves at the base of the center.
Slice the heart in half length-wise and remove the fibers in the center. You will be left with a hollowed-out bulb that is ready for cooking.
Cook the Artichoke
There are several ways you can cook your artichoke, including steaming, boiling, baking, and sautéing.
If you boil or steam your artichoke, you need only cut the tips of the pointy leaves and cut off the tip of the fruit as described above. You can then remove the boiled or steamed leaves and dip them in butter and spices. When you eat them, you use your teeth to pull the fruit out from the leaves, rather than biting directly into the leaves.
You can either eat all the leaves to get to the heart and use it for another recipe, or you can prepare the artichoke as described above to get to the heart. You can add the artichoke hearts to salads, pastas, and rice dishes. You can even grill or roast them on their own and enjoy them with a little olive oil or butter and spices.
Many also enjoy the taste of fresh-squeezed lemons on their artichoke leaves or hearts. Experiment with what tastes best to you.
Though artichokes may be intimidating to novice chefs, they are quite easy to prepare. Try out one of these simple techniques for enjoying a delicious spring bounty.
How do you cut and prepare your artichoke? Share your favorite recipes in the comments!
About the Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a freelance food and culinary writer, where recently she’s been researching the best schools in California. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.