Some food should come with directions for use. Like the artichoke, for starters. According to my pal Karen, who grew up in a Cheez-it and Corn Nut appetizer house, she was never introduced to any part of an artichoke early on in life. Karen’s first encounter with an artichoke did not happen until sometime in her late 20s at my parents’ house.
Few people tell a story better than Karen, and she was kind enough to refresh my memory of the artichoke debacle last week when I mentioned I was doing a column on artichokes, what with spring arriving and all.
Having a nice visit on the couch at my parents’ house years ago, Karen decided to sample the fancy snack in front of her on the coffee table. She politely placed a petal on her tiny plate and tried to bite a small bit into her mouth. Finding it hard to bite through, and not wanting to appear as if she didn’t know what she was doing, Karen popped the entire leaf into her mouth. Impossible to chew and tasting “bitter and grassy”, she had no choice but to turn her head away from the hostess and spit it all into the tiny napkin, wondering what they thought was so great about the artichoke.
As Karen said, “Some food should come with directions for use…or should be served only to the seasoned snacker.”
Often steamed and served with melted butter and mayonnaise, the artichoke is, in fact, a perennial thistle with leaves requiring trimming prior to cooking and eating.
Using a pair of sharp kitchen shears is an easy way to cut the sharp ends of the leaves off prior to popping in simmering water.
As for the eating, “Popping the entire petal in your mouth” could lead to some problems, as Karen will remind you. A properly cooked artichoke should have leaves that pull easily from the globe and then can be dipped in melted butter or mayonnaise before you eat them. And when I say eat, I mean use your teeth to scrape the meaty bottom part of the inside of the leaf into your mouth.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the heart of the artichoke which can be accessed after the leaves have been removed. Cutting the stem end off the cooked artichoke and carefully slicing away all fuzzy purplish inner leaves will lead you to the tender heart which is delicious to dip in melted butter or mayonnaise and eat as well.
Taking Karen’s advice to heart, I give you this week’s Special of the day: Spotlight on the Artichoke with Recipes for Steamed Artichoke and Garlic Parmesan Mayonnaise. Happy cooking (and eating)!
Recipe and food photography by Sydne George.
1 medium artichoke
½ tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
Using a sharp kitchen knife, cut the stem end off the artichoke. Using kitchen shears, trim an inch off the spiky end of each leaf on the artichoke.
Fill a medium-sized saucepan ¾ full of water. Add salt and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Add garlic and bay leaves. Place your trimmed artichoke in simmering water.
Cover and steam for 30-35 minutes, until leaves easily pull from base of artichoke.
Remove from water and let cool briefly. Serve warm with Garlic Parmesan Mayonnaise. Enjoy!
Garlic Parmesan Mayonnaise
½ cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh parmesan, grated
In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir until completely mixed. Serve with steamed artichoke.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.