Springtime means artichokes to me. I’ve planted some artichoke plants this year, but that means I won’t be picking them until at least next year. In the meantime, the prices were finally low enough that I succumbed and bought some at the market today. Our never-ending rain here in California means that artichokes and asparagus have been in short supply.
I still cook them the way my mom did. I cut the stem end off just a bit above the base of the stem, then cut about 1″ off the tips of the leaves on the other end. I never both using scissors to snip the sharp points off the leaves in the middle as the books tell you. I do rub the cut parts of the artichokes with half a lemon, then squeeze the rest of the lemon into the cooking water. And I do simmer them, not steam them. I usually throw a few cloves of garlic in the pot of water as well, peeled but not squished too much.
I often cook them a day ahead of when I want to eat them, Whenever you cook them, drop them in a pot of boiling water (preferably with the lemon juice and garlic) and cook about 25-35 minutes, depending on the size. Poke the bottom with a fork to test for doneness. When the fork pierces the heart easily, they’re done. Drain them upside down on a plate, squeezing the excess water out once they are cool enough to handle. I then refrigerate them until dinner (or lunch) the next day, or just let them cool to room temperature if we’re eating them that night.
I serve them with just a bit of mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice. Pull the leaves off, dip the heart end of them in a bit of the mayo mix and pull them through your teeth to get to the meat. Provide a bowl at the table for the leaves. When you’ve eaten all the big leaves, pull the last clump out in one bunch and eat as much of them as you can. Then use a knife to cut the “choke” part out, the purple thistle looking section. (Note: If you grow these, it’s worthwhile to let a few flower and see this magnificent purple flower that comes out when they open up!)
The heart of the artichoke is the goal, the reward, the prize. Scrape any fuzzy bits off with a flat knife or spoon, then eat!