How to cook artichokes

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Artichokes. (Peter V. Bella)

Artichokes look daunting to cook at first. You see chefs on television scraping, cutting, stuffing, and making all kinds of complex versions.

Before you attempt any of their culinary delights or one from a cook book, you need to learn how to cook an artichoke.

It is difficult to find good artichokes in supermarkets. Most of the time they lay around too long because most people have no idea what to do with them.

When buying artichokes make sure they are firm. Squeeze lightly with your fingertips. They should not feel soft or spongy. They should have a nice over all green color. Avoid any with too many brown spots or leaves.

The basic method to cook an artichoke is similar to braising. You only need salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

Recipe:

Two Artichokes

One medium or large lemon

Olive oil

Salt

Directions:

Fill a pot about one third with water. Squeeze the juice of the lemons into the water and add the lemons.

Cut the stems of the artichokes making a flat base. Cook the stems with the chokes, as they taste good. If they are fibrous just peel the outer layer off. Cut off the bottom portion (about 1/4 inch). Immediately toss the stems into the water to keep them from browning.

With a sharp knife, cut the tops off the chokes- about 1/2 inch.

Trim the points off the leaves with scissors. Be careful. Sometimes the leaves have small sharp thorns.

Dip the tops of the artichokes in the lemon water to keep them from turning brown (oxidizing).

Place the artichokes in the pot. The water should only come about one third of the way up.

Cover and cook on high heat until the water starts to boil.

Lower heat to simmer.

Cook for 30-40 minutes or until leaves easily pull off with fingers.

My mother used to stuff the leaves with thin sliced garlic and a mix of parsley, grated Parmesan, and bread crumbs before cooking. While tedious, this produces a delicious artichoke.

Serve with your favorite dip. I like a garlicky aioli- mayo, minced garlic (to taste), a little olive oil, and fresh lemon juice, all thoroughly combined.

If you never ate an artichoke before, this video shows you how to do it.

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