Artichokes can be intimidating to someone who’s not terribly comfortable in the kitchen. But this prickly veggie need not daunt you. Plucking those delicious hearts from within the prickly artichoke requires some time and effort, but it’s not difficult and certainly worth it.
If you plan on stuffing your artichokes, cut the stem as close to the base as you can get. If you plan on grilling them, remove only a little of the stem at the end — in which case you will have to put your paring knife skills to the test later when peeling what remains of the stem.
Next, you need to pull off the leaves. The closer you get to the heart, the yellower and tenderer the leaves get. Keep pulling until you get to the center leaves.
Pull these off to reveal the reason it’s called an artichoke. It’s hairy. It’s inedible. And it’s called a choke. You’ll need a spoon to scoop it out. Make sure you get the whole thing, too, because it’s nasty. When you’re done, you’re left holding that telltale heart you seek. With a paring knife, trim the bottom of the heart. You want to be rid of all the prickly fibrous stuff and be left only with fleshy deliciousness.
Nota bene: The leaves on an artichoke are edible — well, kind of. After some minor prep work, including trimming the leaves, you can boil or steam the entire artichoke. The leaves come off easily at this point, and you can scrape the flesh at the ends of the leaves with your teeth. You can also pull off the leaves and roast them, and eat them the same way.
Summer may be over, but if you’re not ready to put the grill away, then fire it up. Lightly coat your artichoke hearts with some olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Grill the hearts until they are slightly charred, approximately three to five minutes on each side.
We love this recipe for braised baby artichokes, featured in the Vegetarian Times. Once you have your artichoke hearts ready, this dish makes for an excellent light and healthy meal — be it a healthy lunch or a healthy dinner that you can then pair with a glass or two of your favorite white wine.
Artichoke hearts are a great way to beef up a salad, particularly if you don’t eat meat and want your salad to be hearty and filling. Grab your favorite greens. Halve two handfuls of grape or cherry tomatoes. Grate some gruyere cheese or crumble some feta. Add some sliced olives (black, kalamata, whichever you prefer). Add half a can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed. And lastly, add those artichoke hearts — steamed is fine, but you can braise or grill them and have them in this quick salad. Use a light dressing. We like mixing equal parts red wine vinegar and olive oil, and adding salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Mix everything thoroughly.