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While as we all know, they are available all year, this flower in the thistle family has its best season from March to May. In Italy, especially up north in areas around Venice and Friuli or further down in Umbria, the artichoke is as common as garlic and onions.

Unfortunately,  fresh, inexpensive artichokes are often difficult to find in North America, but I do encourage you to buy some when you see them in your stores each spring. There are certain qualities you need to look for when buying artichokes though. Look for tight, compact leaves, no wrinkling, and few brownish blemishes. Choose smaller, rather than the larger artichokes (unless you are planning on stuffing them) and those that feel heavier in your hands rather than light. The smaller variety generally has more edible leaves, and less prickly chokes. It is said if you rub two artichokes together and they squeak, then they are fresh.

Once you get them home, it is time to prepare your artichokes which just may be a daunting proposition if you have never done it before. Having completed it once however, it will be a snap to do in the future. To start, fill a large bowl 3/4 full of water and add to that the juice of one lemon to prevent discoloration. With a sharp knife, trim off all but 1 inch of the stem of an artichoke. Next, break off and discard the older, tough outside leaves, and continue to do this until you reach the more tender, pale green leaves inside. Next, cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke and discard. You can now clean up the ragged areas along the stem with your knife. Unless your artichokes are very small, you’ll need to remove the choke, and can you do this by simply cutting the artichoke in half and scraping out the fuzzy center and prickly leaves. If you require the artichoke whole, or if you plan to stuff them, spread apart the center leaves and with a sharp edged spoon start to scrape out the choke. Continue until you have removed all the prickly, sharp, center leaves. Rinse your artichoke and place it in the lemon water until you are ready to use.

Halibut with Braised, Sliced Artichokes and Lemons

From Martha Stewart Living, April 2007

 

  • SERVINGS: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lemons, preferably organic
  • 4 medium or large artichokes
  • 1/2 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 halibut fillets (each about 6 ounces and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick), skinned
  • See To-Table's Incredibly Fresh Seafood fillets (cannot find this quality locally) here. Really a must-see if you want very, very good fish.
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut 1 lemon in half, and squeeze into a bowl of cold water; add the rinds to the water. Squeeze 1/2 cup juice from 2 lemons; set juice and rinds aside. Cut the remaining lemon lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and set aside.

  2. Prepare the artichoke hearts: Working with 1 artichoke at a time, snap off tough outer leaves until half-green-half-yellow leaves are exposed. Using a chef's knife, cut off dark-green top until just pale part remains. Using a paring knife, peel dark-green layer from base and stem; trim stem. Scrape out purple leaves and fuzzy choke using a spoon, and discard. Halve artichoke lengthwise. Rub artichoke with reserved lemon rinds as you work. Cut artichoke heart into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and transfer to lemon water.

  3. Put onion, fennel, coriander seeds, reserved lemon juice and slices, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 cup water, and the olive oil into a large saute pan or deep pot. Drain artichokes, and add to pan; stir. Place a piece of parchment directly on mixture; cover pan with foil or lid. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and uncover. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

  4. Season both sides of fish with salt. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large skillet over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add 2 fillets. Reduce heat to medium-high, and cook fillets, without moving them, until bottoms are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip; cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer each to a plate; tent with foil. Repeat with remaining tablespoon canola oil and 2 fillets. Spoon 1/2 cup artichoke mixture over each fillet. Garnish with basil.

A simple recipe for a side dish to honor the taste and beauty of the entire artichoke

ROASTED ARTICHOKES W/ LEMON TARRAGON BUTTER

by

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 artichokes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

 INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Wash your artichokes and cut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, carve out the hairy "choke" in the center along with the tiny, pointy leaves. When you are done they should look like the picture above. They will oxidize quickly, so you can drop them in lemon water if it's your first time and you're a little slow at it.
  2. Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour (depending on size of artichoke, large ones could be longer) at 375 degrees (F) or until the heart is fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile, gently melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the lemon juice and cook for one minute. Remove from the heat and add the chopped tarragon.
  4. To serve, ladle a few teaspoons of the lemon butter over each artichoke. Use the center "cup" of the artichoke for dipping.

 

Chorizo-Stuffed Artichokes

BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS

4 SERVINGS

Ingredients

  • 4ounces uncooked chorizo sausage Find Great Smoking Goose Chorizo at To-Table here
  • 1 1/2cups chopped red and/or yellow sweet peppers (2 medium)
  • 1cup finely chopped onion (1 large)
  • 4cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2cups coarsely crushed croutons (about 2 1/2 cups croutons)*
  • 14 ounce can diced green chile peppers, undrained
  • 3/4cup shredded Mexican-style four cheese blend (3 ounces)
  • 1/4cup snipped fresh cilantro
  • 4medium artichokes (about 3 pounds total)
  • 3tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2cup water
  • 1tablespoon olive oil
  • Mexican crema (optional)
  • Snipped fresh cilantro
  • tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 - 1teaspoon chopped canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce*

Directions

  1. For filling, in a large skillet cook chorizo over medium heat until browned, using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Drain off fat. Add sweet peppers and onion to meat in skillet. Cook about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute more. Remove from heat. Stir in crushed croutons, green chile peppers, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and the 1/4 cup snipped cilantro. Set aside; let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, trim stems from artichokes so they sit flat; remove loose outer leaves. Cut about 1 inch off the top of each artichoke; snip off the sharp leaf tips. Brush cut edges with some of the lemon juice. Spread leaves apart, creating space for the filling. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the chokes. Stuff filling into the center and between leaves. Place any remaining filling on top of artichokes.
  3. In a 6-quart oval slow cooker combine the water and the remaining lemon juice. Place artichokes, filling sides up, in cooker. Drizzle with oil.
  4. In a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, chile pepper, and salt. (Chipotle Dipping Sauce)
  5. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours or until a leaf pulls out of the center easily.** Top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes. If desired, drizzle with Mexican crema. Sprinkle with additional snipped cilantro and serve with Chipotle Dipping Sauce.

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