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Tips for Preparing and Cooking Artichokes

Artichokes are from the family Asteraceae, a genus of flower, and are cultivated mostly in California. They have almond shaped green leaves that overlap one another and are packed with vitamins and fiber. There are many types and sizes of artichokes depending on the season and genus. The most popular artichoke is the Globe artichoke.

The most popular ways to cook an artichoke are boiling, steaming, and baking. People who are pressed for time might want to use a microwave, or if summer grilling is on the menu, then this is a fantastic way to add more flavor.

Preparation

At first sight, the artichoke preparation appears complicated but it is a simple process. First, wash the artichoke or artichokes if you are using more than one. Be sure to wash it well to remove the film produced on the leaves when it grows. Using a sharp serrated knife cut one inch off, straight across the top of the artichoke. The stem connects itself to the Heart, situated in the center of the artichoke. It is best to keep the stem on if you can, or if it is long, you can trim it about half an inch. In restaurants, the thorny part of the leaves are cut with kitchen scissors about one quarter of an inch, it gives the artichoke a more uniform appearance. To keep from browning, rub a cut lemon on the areas that were cut.

Boiling

The classic way of cooking an artichoke is to boil it. If you have more than one artichoke, it is best to use a large pot and fill it with salted water. Turn the heat to high and boil. Add the artichokes one by one in the boiling water. Cover the artichokes and simmer on high for approximately 30 minutes for a medium-sized artichoke and 45 minutes for a larger artichoke. Cooking times do vary so be sure to check at least 20-30 minutes into the cooking to see if it is done. To do this, take a sharp knife and stick it through the base. If the knife goes through easily, then it is ready to be taken out of the water, either by strainer or you can use tongs and set on a plate. If you overcook the artichoke, it will be mushy and tasteless.

Steaming

Artichokes retain most of their minerals and vitamins by steaming them. Take a large steaming basket and place it in a large pot. Fill the bottom of the pot with water just up to the basket bottom. Place the artichokes stem up in the steamer and cover with a lid. Boil on high and steam for about the same amount time you used for boiling.

Baking

If you want a fabulous tasting artichoke try baking it like a baked potato. Set the temperature to 425F. You will need two layers of heavy duty foil. Place each artichoke in a separate foil and spread the leaves out for seasoning. Drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, sea salt, and minced garlic over the leaves. Wrap the artichoke and twist the top of the foil. Place on the oven rack and bake approximately one hour to one hour and 15 minutes. Let the artichoke cool before unwrapping.

Grilling

Cook the artichoke by either steaming or boiling it. Place the artichokes on a grill set at 350F and brush with olive oil so it doesn’t stick to the grill. Cut the artichokes down the middle and place cut down on the grill for around 4 minutes or until they begin to char. Turn them over with tongs and cook another 4 minutes.

Microwave

When cooking an artichoke in the microwave, prepare as usual. Cut washed artichokes in half and rub cut edges with lemon so as not to brown, then sprinkle salt on the edges. Place artichokes cut side down in a microwavable safe dish and add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and if desired, a small amount of oil. Squeeze lemon if desired, over the artichokes and cover. Cook for 18 -20 minutes.

Artichokes can be used for dipping in a variety of sauces such as butter, garlic-butter, or even mayonnaise. Just pull off the leaves and dip! Stuffed artichokes add wonderful flair and flavor. You will have to cut out the fuzzy choke in the center with a spoon and scoop it out to add the stuffing.

Last to mention is the heart of the artichoke. Using a serrated knife cut the top off the artichoke then cut the leaves off by slicing downward. Then cut down to the choke, that fuzzy part in the middle as it is not edible. Once you reach that part, scoop out with a spoon or melonballer. Continue to cut off the leaves until the heart is clean and the stem is about half an inch. You can marinate with lemon and add to salads or pasta.