Wednesday, May 23

HOW TO: Steam Artichokes

Artichokes are one of those vegetables that are very overlooked. Most people only ever come in contact with artichoke hearts or an artichoke dip of some sort. And let us be honest most people don't like them, I however love them. I am eating one right now as I am typing this. Artichokes can be a great vegetable to add to you menu, they can easily be stuffed, are a impressive site, and go well with a variety of flavors.

The basics of artichoke steaming, really begin with how to properly prepare them for steaming. For the purpose of getting down the basics, I will be steaming plain artichokes. Once you give it a try, you could easily scoop out the center and steam stuffed artichokes.

Let us begin. When looking for a good artichoke, you want one even in color and with a firm feel. The leaves should appear tight together and should not pull off if you give a very light tug.
You want to start by removing the stem, if you look at the bottom of the artichoke, you will see where it connects to the bulb of the vegetable, cut and remove stem here. You will end up removing a few smaller leaves at the same time, but this is perfectly fine.
You artichoke should now sit flat on your cutting board, plate, or cooking surface.
Now the leave need a little attention. If you look at the apex of each leaf, you may see a little pricker, most varieties of artichokes contain a pricker of some sort. These do need to be removed. Carefully hold you artichoke in you hand and trim the pricker/apex of each leaf off. (again some varieties do not need this step, such as the ones in my photos but I will show you what to do just in case)
before
 after  

 Artichokes are best when cooked the day they are purchased, however, in life this isn't always possible. Just make sure you don't let them sit for more than 3 days before you cook them. Also, they like to occasionally suffer from leaning in the same spot sometimes, if this happens you may see some browning where it leaned. Carefully look to see if the browning is just on the surface leaves, if it is, than the artichoke hasn't gone bad it just has a bruise, snip these leaves off just like we did above.
     brown spot 
 inspect below 
snipping leaves
Once all your artichokes are ready to go, get a large pot of water ready by adding 1-2 tbsp of salt to the water.
Now add a steamer or flat bottom colander to the pot, the water may come through the bottom holes, but shouldn't go high than an inch above the bottom.
Once water is boiling add your artichokes to the steamer.
Cover and set a timer. For small artichokes start around 35 minutes, medium 45, large 55. The ones I have in the photo started at 45 minutes.
When your timer goes off. Carefully remove lid, lift away from you to avoid steam. Gently and quickly give a leaf a light tug, if it removes it is done. If not recover and retest in 10 minutes. The ones in the photo took a total of 55 minutes to cook.
When they are all cooked, carefully remove using tongs to a serving plate and let sit for a few minutes to de-steam. You will be able to see how they have developed a rich olive color.
 raw on left, cooked on right
When serving, make sure your guests know how to eat an artichoke and offer advice if needed. try to work from outside leave towards the inside, only eat the meat at the end of the leaf, if you look carefully there will be a little "ravine" in leaf the meat starts there and works towards base of leaf not tip.
Once leaves turn opaque or a milky pearl color stop eating. Remove these leaves and the little "hairs" by gently scooping with spoon. The heart will be what remains and tends to be the best part for most eaters. I actually prefer the leaves! I also like giving mine a squeeze of fresh lemon right before I dig in.