The Heart of the Matter: How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke

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Artichokes have a reputation for being rather unyielding. Artichoke hearts are easy enough to throw on a salad, into a pasta dish, or in a soup, but when diners see a whole artichoke on their plates, many are likely to bow out. And we can’t really blame them. If you’ve never experienced the taste of an artichoke victory, the plant’s outer spiky leaves and eating process don’t exactly welcome any new eaters. Still, it’s high time we convert some of those in the anti-artichoke camp, because the edible portion of the plant is delicious and warrants attention.

Ready, set, go: The first thing you need to do is buy your (whole) artichoke at the grocery store or fresh market. Make sure you choose a bulb with leaves that are still packed tightly together, as it will be fresher and more tender than artichokes with petals that have already been opened. With your purchases made, make your way to the kitchen. We’re going to break the artichoke cooking process down into a few simple steps.

  1. First, take a sharp kitchen knife and cut 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke — you can also think of it as the top third of the artichoke. Then, cut the thorned tips off all of the leaves and also cut the stem off close to the bulb. Pull off any smaller leaves toward the base and on the stem.
  2. Place the artichokes in a bowl of cold water. Add some lemon juice if you want to prevent browning.
  3. Fill a large stock pot with 1/2 inch of water and for flavor, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf. Place artichoke face down in the water, cover, and then bring water to a boil before reducing heat to simmer for 25-35 minutes.  To check if the artichoke is done, remove from the boiling water and pierce the stem with a fork. If it goes easily through, the artichoke is done. If not, place it back in the pot for 5 more minutes. Alternatively, you can check for doneness by trying to pull off the artichoke’s outer leaves. If they come off easily, the artichoke is ready. The cooking time for artichokes varies depending on the size of the bulb.

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