A love-hate relationship with the delicious but demanding artichoke
Fall weather treats those of us living in warm climates to a second harvest of artichokes. An essential item in the Italian diet, the perennial vegetable presents itself as hearty and durable but requires a patient and delicate hand. Choose artichokes that are firm and heavy, with stiff, tightly-packed leaves. The outer color may be bright green, blue-green, or even violet, according to the variety. Because the artichoke is a flower bud, open leaves are a sign that the vegetable is over-ripe and will be hard. Uncooked artichokes may be kept fresh for up to three days if their stalks are put into water, like flowers. Once cooked, they will keep for 24 hours. Using fresh artichokes means learning to “turn” them—rotating the artichoke as you trim the leaves and choke away to reveal the delicious bottom of the flower.
How to turn an artichoke bottom:
- Snap or cut off the stalk and remove all the large outer leaves with a knife.
- Remove the slightly loose, large leaves that cover the small clump of tender leaves on top of the choke.
- Carefully cut away the small clump of tender leaves, sliding the knife over the top of the choke and leaving it in place on the bottom.
- Pull or scoop out the inedible hairy choke, taking care to remove it completely. Use a small spoon to scrape the bottom clean.
- Drizzle or rub the bottom with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.