Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Choked Up

One of my fave foods is fresh artichokes. They are easy to prepare, elegant and versatile. W4D's family ate them Italian style, stuffed with bread crumbs, cheese and herbs. I like them dressed in lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Sometimes, I put a spoonful of cold dip or warm cheese sauce in the center. Occasionally, I slice whole artichokes vertically and scoop out the thistle and fill that part with crab. The tiny ones make elegant cocktail hor's dourves. However you prepare them, artichokes make a nice presentation. This is how to prepare a basic artichoke for stuffing, filling or just plain eating!

Buy the heaviest artichokes for the size. Look for ones that have fresh green leaves. The center top should be tight. The stems are going to be cut off so it doesn't matter how long the stems are.


Use a sharp knife to cut the stem off flush at the bottom of the artichoke. Peel off the bottom row of leaves for they are too tough to eat. Your artichoke should sit flat and is now ready for trimming. Use your kitchen shears to trim the top 1/4 off each leaf, starting at the bottom and going around and up until you get to the part up top where all the remaining leaves come to a point. This is the part above the thistle. Now, lay the artichoke on its side and cut the sharp points off the center of the artichoke. You can cut a lot off or a little. Cut off more if you are going to top the artichoke with a sauce so that you will have a larger level plateau area to hold the topping.


As soon as you cut artichokes, always sprinkle them with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown at the cuts. I just put them right into a large pot with about an inch of water in the bottom and liberally sprinkle them there with lemon juice since I always cook artichokes with a little lemon juice anyway. Cooking with lemon juice keeps the artichokes green instead of turning them brown so add another TSP or so to the water in the pot. You can trim them an hour or two early and then after sprinkling them with lemon juice, just cover the pot until ready to cook.


I bring the water to a quick boil and then turn down the heat to a medium boil and cook the chokes for about 20 minutes or until fork tender and drain. Serve hot or chilled. I'm making peppered pork tenderloin and brown rice to follow our first course of artichokes tonight. Since eating fresh artichokes takes some time, I like to serve them as their own course so the rest of the dinner doesn't get cold. Don't be afraid to cook fresh artichokes. They are easy to prepare. There's some nice artichoke recipes here, compliments of the Artichoke Growers Organization.

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