Enjoyed by the ancient Greeks and Romans, the artichoke has been around for a very long time. Surprisingly, it is a member of the thistle family but poses no thorny problems when cooked correctly.
The petals we enjoy are part of the flower head that is picked prior to its bloom. While many of us have purchased artichoke in jars and cans, few try to eat the vegetable fresh, but it is worth every minute of preparation.
Begin with a firm, fresh artichoke head. If the leaves are tight to the body of the artichoke, this is a sign that it is fresh. Cut off the top 3/4 to 1 inch of the choke and pull back the pedals, opening up the bulb a little. With kitchen sheers, trim off the ends of each pedal. This will allow the bulb to cook better and soften the pedals quicker. Cut off the bottom stem or use a vegetable peeler to remove the hardest portions of the stem.
Rinse the artichoke in cold water, washing it carefully.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a 1/2 a lemon, a bay leaf and the artichoke. Using a clean dish towel, cover the artichoke to keep all of it under the water, otherwise it will float on top and not cook evenly. Turn down the heat to keep the water at a soft boil for the next 30-45 minutes, or until the pedals of the artichoke pull off easily.
Serve the artichoke whole, allowing guests to pull off the leaves themselves, or arrange on a platter with a dipping sauce – either melted butter or if you are truly adventurous, Hollandaise Sauce (which we will cover in a future post).
You will be pleased with the results and your guests will wonder at your adventurous spirit!
Remember, Be Brave & Eat Well!