Aaah the artichoke. An intriguing vegetable that often gets overlooked mostly out of timidity. Well, in my case anyway. The layers of intimidation began many, many years ago when I was confused about exactly what an artichoke was. Determining that artichoke referred to the globe artichoke – a member of the thistle family from which the flower head is eaten – and not Jerusalem artichoke – a vegetable from which the root is eaten – meant I could actually buy some to cook and eat. Big hurdle, that was.
I remember collecting some artichoke stems from the grocer and heading home to read from the only Italian cookbook we had in the house about how to prepare them. The recipe started with a comprehensive disclaimer about how tricky artichokes were to prepare – and eat – and coupled with zero pictures to illustrate each of the steps, I was left pondering exactly why anyone would bother. Things weren’t looking up as I hesitated through each step wondering if I had interpreted the instructions correctly. I didn’t want to go to all this hassle to discover I’d put a foot wrong and all my effort would be for nothing.
And that’s pretty much what happened. When it came to eating them, I had no idea if my leaf-scraping technique was on par or where the hell the choke was that I was to avoid… It was mildly disillusioning.
More recently, at a school pick-up, I mentioned to my friend Jo that I wanted to give artichokes a second chance and planned to pick some up at the market that weekend. Jo shared a similar artichoke preparation experience to me. She described artichoke’s sole purpose as ‘transport for lemon and oil’. Perhaps that’s not too far from the truth.
These days there’s Google to offer up step-by-step instructions (with photos!) that made sure I didn’t put a foot wrong in preparing my second round of artichokes. It seems I was on the right track the first time around, but this time I was a lot more confident in what to do and what to expect.
Yes, there is technique and yes, their flesh to leaf ratio is meager, but the preparation is not as arduous as you would expect and the flavour of creamy nuttiness from the artichoke flesh combined with lemon and oil, or a homemade mayonnaise, is one of life’s more simple pleasures. We enjoyed ours with a couple of beers on the back deck in the winter’s sun. I highly recommend it.
If you want to up your artichoke preparation credentials be sure to have a look at some of these recipes:
Jules from Stonesoup and I shared the same fear of artichoke preparation
A great little step-by-step post on braising artichoke heartsShare this on: