My first introduction to artichokes was an unpleasant one. Just after college, I was invited to have dinner with my friend and his parents at their home in a high-end New York suburb. They had the kind of dining room table that is perfect for Thanksgiving but otherwise does not promote intimate conversation. We each had a side on which to hold court.
To start off the meal, we were presented with an artichoke, an unusual budding flower head that was entirely unfamiliar. Certainly New Jersey, my birth place, provides impressive crops of corn on the cob and beefsteak tomatoes, but these? Since 100 percent of all artichokes sold commercially in the United States are grown in California, it’s not a wonder that we had never crossed paths, but still.
What could I do but mouth a plea of “Help…!” to my friend across the expanse of table. He got the hint and I was able to imitate my way through navigating this tricky thistle. It was equally disconcerting when asparagus, another flowering perennial plant species that had not seen its way to my plate before, was served as a side dish. It was a challenging dinner.
Although neither item won me over first time around, both have become favorites, especially considering Castroville, the artichoke capital of the world, is now a not too distant neighbor.
Artichokes are readily available in spring and fall. Select globes that are deep green and have petals that are tightly closed rather than splayed out and dehydrated looking. They should feel somewhat heavy for their size and will squeak when squeezed.
To store, sprinkle with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do no wash before storing. They should last a week.
With a sharp or serrated knife, slice off the top 1 inch and most of the stem of the artichoke, snap off the small, tough outer leaves and with scissors, snip off thorny tips.
From there, go through the following steps:
Immediately add to lemon water where they will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days until ready to cook.
Here’s to enjoying them while you’re young!
Pan Roasted Artichokes
- 3 lemons, quartered
- 4 medium to large artichokes
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 4 to 6 peeled garlic cloves, crushed
- Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze in the juice from the four quarters of one lemon.
- With a sharp or serrated knife, slice off the top 1 inch and most of the stem of the artichokes, pull off the small, tough outer leaves and with scissors, snip off the thorny tips.
- Cut in half or quarters lengthwise.
- Separate the first few, purple-tinged leaves in the center from the base by pulling them away from the choke with your fingers.
- Use a spoon or melon baller to scrape the fuzzy center from the choke. (See slide show above.)
- Immediately put artichokes in the lemon water to help avoid discoloration. Keep in the water until ready to cook; they may be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Just before cooking, spread the artichokes on paper towels, sliced side down, and pat dry.
- When ready to cook, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high flame. Warm the olive oil until nearly smoking. Sprinkle the pan generously with salt and pepper.
- Carefully place the artichokes sliced side down in the pan. Do not overlap. Season with more salt and pepper and slip the garlic into the spaces between the artichokes.
- Cook, shaking the pan occasionally to keep the artichokes from sticking, until they are evenly browned underneath, 6 to 10 minutes. Using tongs, lift 1 or 2 artichokes up to check for doneness.
- Add the quarters of the second lemon to the pan, place a piece of foil over the pan and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and keep covered for 30 to 45 minutes or if longer, briefly re-heat over low flame.
- Transfer the artichokes to a serving platter. Squeeze the juice from the cooked lemon wedges into the pan and whisk to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Pour the juice over the artichokes, garnish with the remaining lemon quarters and serve with Garlic, Basil Dip.
Adapted from: The Food Channel
Garlic, Basil Dip
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Note: Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.