Many years ago, I was put to shame by a teenager and his knowledge of artichokes. He went on and on about how cool it was to be served an artichoke flower. To peel it leaf-by-leaf, dip it in warm garlic butter and savor the fleshy end piece. He made it sound so sophisticated and sexy.
The music group, Cibo Matta, has a song “Artichokes” whose thinly veiled lyrics are about sex. According to the website 10 songs about food that are really about sex, this song made the number #6 position. So what better time of year to tackle the artichoke but Valentine’s Day?
I knew nothing about the artichoke plant before taking on this challenge. It is a pretty piece of produce, but also intimidating. It has all these thorny leaves and most of the plant is inedible. It is a thistle plant native to the Mediterranean region and brought to the United States by the Spaniards. I also read that it is a member of the sunflower family.
Another interesting tidbit is that Castroville, CA produces 80% of all commercially grown artichokes. It was put on the map after Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1948. She was the epitome of sex, right?
Steamed Artichokes The New Best Recipe 2004
So here I go. I trimmed off the pin-sharp thorns from the tips of the leaves. It makes for easier handling. Then with a a sharp knife, I tried to cut off the top two rows of the artichoke. I found this pretty difficult to do, so I used a kitchen shears.
Then I cut the stem flush with the base of the bulb and dropped it into a bowl of lemon juice and water to prevent browning before steaming.
I steamed my artichokes by placing the base on top of a 1 1/2 inch thick onion slice. If you have difficulty balancing the artichoke, then pop out the inner 3-4 rings of the onion.
The pot was filled with water a half inch below the top of the onion rings.
Once the water comes to a boil, then cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the outer leaves release into a flower. I had to check the pot periodically to make sure the water did not boil out.
The artichokes were removed from the pot and cooled for 15 minutes. I served them warm, pulling off one leaf at a time and dipping the bottom end into the garlic butter. To eat, scrape off the end with your teeth. It can also be served cold, but it tastes better warm.
So one by one you get to the heart, the edible part of the plant. See how much fun it can be if shared by two people?
Remove the fuzzy part to reveal the heart.
The Fearless Cook Footnotes
The leaf-by-leaf method is ideal for an intimate meal. One heart to be shared by two 🙂
The cost of one artichoke was $3.00. If I was making an artichoke dip, I would go for the jarred version. You get more hearts for your money. My 9/12 oz jar cost about $3.50.
My lovely artichoke our time together was fun while it lasted. It was a labor intensive tryst we had for very little food. I’m a practical girl raised in the Corn Belt and we live for food production.