Take me to a salad bar and you’ll see me load up my plate with mounds of artichoke hearts. I love them. As a pizza topper, dip enhancement, or accompaniment to a pasta salad, artichokes add a toothsome bite to many meals. I remember a few years ago when I had an amazing appetizer at Houston’s restaurant, where you plucked off the artichoke leaves, dipped them in some mayo-based sauce, and scraped the leaves and sauce off with your teeth. It was heavenly. So when I was in my first Boston kitchen, I saw whole artichokes at Whole Foods and wanted to duplicate that appetizer. I steamed the artichoke whole for what seemed like a very, very, very long time. The end result was a delicious veggie dish, but all that labor seemed like a lot of work to get to the heart of the veggie. So I stuck with canned or frozen artichoke hearts going forward.
Then I was contacted by Ocean Mist Farms asking if I’d like to receive a shipment of artichokes. Would I?! Yes please. Note: anyone who contacts me to ask if I’d like to receive a shipment of produce, the answer will always be a resounding YES. I wanted to give them another college try, instead of copping out with the semi-prepared versions. Little did I know I’d have 15 or so tries. My produce drawer is literally busting open with artichokes!
Aren’t they just stunning?!?
I put a shout-out to my twitter followers asking for some cooking suggestions, and got everything from suggesting I stuff them, to grill them. Someone suggested I roast them and it never dawned on me I could, since you don’t actually eat a lot of those tough outer leaves that would get roasted. I did some googling around and found this great step-by-step on Pinch My Salt for roasting whole artichokes. I watched the video too, and followed the instructions to a T, except I used bottled lemon juice and frozen garlic cloves, since that’s all I had.
I cut off the top bit of the artichoke.
Then used my fingers to wedge some garlic in there, as well as drizzle on some lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt.
All bundled up in a double layer of tin foil. Then I cooked them at 400F for about an hour and 10 minutes, and let them cool for another 20.
Funk and I plucked off leaf by leaf, scraping the meat off each one with our teeth. They were so soft – unlike their original prickly, stiff version. Our dinner conversation that night revolved around artichokes:
Why are they so darn hard to get to the heart of the artichoke, where the best meat is? Who discovered you could even eat artichokes, considering how intimidating they are? Why are artichokes so rigid and prickly? What critters are they trying to prevent from eating them?
Funk assumed they had to be supremely nutritious, and that was the prize you get (lots of vitamins and minerals) after spending so much effort just eating them. They are in fact a fantastic source of fiber and potassium.
When we got to the heart, and scraped out the furry cap, we savored the meat, which had a caramelized layer of the lemon juice, olive oil and salt, that was so tasty, it was worth all the work.
What’s your favorite way to cook ‘chokes? I have about seven or so left in the fridge to work with, and would love new ideas!