The artichoke grows wild in the south of Europe and is cultivated in the United States, primarily in California. The leaves proceed from the base of the stem and are long and somewhat spiny. The stem is up to 3 feet high, branched, with large heads of violet-colored (sometimes white), thistle-like flowers at the end of the branches. The edible portions of the artichoke are the inner heart and the leaves.
Choose artichokes that are dark green, heavy, and have “tight” leaves. Don’t select ones that are dry looking or appear to be turning brown. If the leaves appear too “open,” then the choke is past its prime. You can still eat them, but the leaves may be tough. Artichokes are available throughout the year with peak season being from March to May with a smaller crop produced in October. The smaller variety of artichoke is easier to cook, and provides more tender leaves for eating.
The easiest ways to cook artichokes is to boil or steam, until tender. If boiling, salt can be added to the water, if desired. If not cooked immediately, placing them in water with lemon juice or vinegar prevents discoloration and oxidation. Leaves are often removed one at a time and the fleshy base part is eaten, sometimes dipped in an aioli or lemon-butter sauce, such as hollandaise. Grilling or stuffing artichokes are also common methods of preparation which yields delicious results.
Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Aioli
- 6 miniature artichokes, cut in half
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup real mayonaise
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste