12 July 2011

So the other day while I was grocery shopping, I noticed a large display of beautiful artichokes.  I had been wanting to try cooking fresh artichokes for a while, so I picked up a few and took them home.  Cooking artichokes can be intimidating; in fact, I got a splinter from one just picking them out at the store!  But thanks to the very thorough directions from my favorite vegetable cookbook, Perfect Vegetables, it was really pretty easy and turned out great.  I decided to create my own dipping sauce to go with them.

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Garlic Dipping Sauce

1 lemon, cut in half
4 medium artichokes (8 to 10 oz.)
2 medium onions

Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl filled with cold water.  Drop the spent lemon halves into the water.

Grasp the artichoke by the stem and hold it horizontal to the cutting board.  Use kitchen shears to trim the tips off the leaves row by row, skipping the top two rows. 

Rest the artichoke on the cutting board.  Holding the stem in one hand, cut off the top quarter (top two rows) of the artichoke with a very sharp chef’s knife.

Cut the stem flush with the base of the bulb.  Drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water.  Repeat with remaining artichokes.

Cut two 1½” thick slices from the middle of each onion.  Space the onion rings evenly across the bottom of a large pot and set one trimmed artichoke on top of each ring.  Fill the pot with water to ½” below the top of the onion rings.  Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover and cook until the outer artichoke leaves release easily when pulled, about 30 minutes.  Check the pot periodically to make sure the water has not boiled dry; add more water as needed.

With tongs, carefully remove the artichokes from the pot and cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.  Steamed artichokes can also be chilled and eaten cool.  Serve with Lemon Garlic Dipping Sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Garlic Dipping Sauce

½ cup mayonnaise
1 lemon
1 small clove garlic, or ½ large clove, grated
¼ tsp dried thyme, crushed

Put the mayonnaise in a small bowl.  Zest the lemon into the bowl.  Add the garlic and thyme and stir until combined.  Use lemon juice or water to thin out the dip to your desired consistency.  

Serve with steamed artichokes.

Makes 4 servings.

Sounds like complicated directions, but they're really not.  The book provides illustrations of each step, which I found very helpful.  I'm not one of those food bloggers that takes pictures of every step for every recipe (really, who doesn't know what chopped onions look like?), but for this recipe, I think some extra pictures would be helpful.  The picture quality isn't the best, but you'll get the idea.

 Onion rings in the pot.  I only made three artichokes, so I only used three onion rings.  The book says that if you don't want to use onions, you can just use a steaming rack.

 The artichoke as I brought it home from the store.  The book recommends medium-sized artichokes, but mine were large (13 oz.).  They took a little longer to cook and were not quite as tender as smaller ones would be.

 Pokey little tips of the leaves snipped off.

 After trimming off the top.  Note: you will need a very sharp knife and some elbow grease for this.  My knife is very sharp and I still struggled with it.  Those leaves are tough!

 After cutting off the stem.  The stem is much easier to cut off than the top of the bulb.

In the pan with the water.  

Artichokes are one of those fruits and vegetables that turn brown after cutting, like apples, avocados, and bananas.  (Is it only A and B fruits and veggies that do this?)  I made the lemon water as directed, but I had trouble keeping the artichokes in the water because they float.  The book didn't address this issue.  You can kind of see in the picture above the order I trimmed the artichokes in; the top left one looks browner, the bottom one less brown, and the right one not brown at all.

A note on eating the cooked artichokes: Pull a leaf out, dip it in the sauce, then you have to kind of scrape the leaf with your teeth to get the meat out.  You don't eat the entire leaf.  You can do that once you get to the really tender inside leaves, but the ones on the outside are too tough.  It sounds weird, but it's good!

Jim loved the dipping sauce I created.  I used one clove of garlic, and thought it may have been too much.  So next time I will only use half.  But the combination of lemon and garlic was really good.

Overall, this was a fun experience.  It's certainly not something I would do very often, but it went smoothly and now I can say that I have done it!

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