If you’ve ever bypassed artichokes at the grocery store or the farmer’s market because they seem intimidating, well, your instincts are right. These tough, prickly vegetables do take time to prepare, but the results are so tasty that once you know how to render the flesh tender and rich, you won’t mind the work so much. Artichokes are still in season, so now is a great time to cook with them.
Here are instructions with photos describing how to prepare whole artichokes so that they have a smooth, round hole in the center that can be filled with anything from salad to melted cheese. Prepping them this way means that when you finish eating the leaves and get to the center, you don’t have to spend time scraping out the choke, because it’s already been done ahead of time.
Recipe: Steamed Whole Artichokes
2 globe artichokes
Step 1: Fill a large bowl halfway full of cold water. Cut the lemons in half and set one half aside. Squeeze the juice of the remaining 3 lemon halves into the water, and throw in their rinds.
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Step 2: Hold one of the artichokes on its side. Using a serrated knife, slice off the top third of the artichoke. Turn it around and slice off the stem, so that the artichoke has a flat, steady base. Stand the artichoke up and pull off the small, tough leaves around the bottom. Using scissors, snip the sharp tips of the remaining leaves. Take the reserved lemon half and rub it all over the cut surfaces of the artichoke to prevent browning.
Step 3: Stretch open the artichoke by putting your thumbs in the center and pulling outward. You will see a circle of small yellow leaves surrounding the fibrous purple choke in the center. Yank on the yellow leaves and pull most of them out. This will require some elbow grease. You can use a pair of tongs to help grip them before pulling.
Step 4: Now, pull out the purple choke in the center. You can use a melon baller, a grapefruit spoon, or even a regular spoon. Keep scraping the bowl-shaped cavity where the choke is buried until you get out all of the fine, fuzzy hairs underneath. Scrape until the cavity is smooth, then place the artichoke in the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with the remaining artichoke.
Step 5: Steam the artichokes in a tightly covered pot for 30 to 40 minutes, until the outer leaves pull off easily and the flesh is very tender.
Now, you can whisk together a simple dipping sauce of EVOO, minced garlic, and lemon juice. You can also chill the artichokes and fill them with either a leafy arugula salad or a creamy chicken or egg salad. Even more deliciously, you can roast the artichokes: put a spoonful of cheese such as crumbled gorgonzola, or grated provolone or mozzarella in the centers, and sprinkle cheese over the tops to cover. Drizzle generously with EVOO, and roast the artichokes at 425°F for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is gooey.