Ask the Cook: Artichokes

Diane Balagna

Question: What can you do with an artichoke?

The short answer is whatever you want. But if you need a few ideas, here are some of my favorites.

You’ve probably enjoyed spinach and artichoke dip with tortilla chips, and you might have seen a whole raw artichoke in the grocery store.

And if you’re curious, you might have wondered how the green leafy artichoke becomes part of that delicious dip. See the Recipe of the Week for instructions. (It includes a shortcut version using a jar of artichoke hearts).

Cooking a raw artichoke is much easier than you may imagine. You’ll need a good knife, kitchen scissors, something to dip the artichoke in (like mayo and your favorite vinegar) and about an hour. (It’s not a quick recipe.)

First, cut the thorny tips off the leaves and throw them away.

Then, boil the artichoke in salted water (about 1/8 teaspoon salt per cup water) until a leaf pulls away easily. Many people say you shouldn’t cover the pot with a lid, but leave it open.

This may take up to 45 minutes depending on the size of your artichoke. Check the leaves periodically starting at 25 minutes.

When it’s done cooking, drain with the leaves pointing down.

Pull off an outer leaf and take a good look. You’ll see a lighter color on one side where the leaf was attached to the stem.

This is the edible part. Dip that end in your sauce (mayo by itself or with vinegar) and put the leaf between your teeth. Scrape the edible part into your mouth using your teeth and discard the rest.

Continue until you get to the middle where you’ll find the “choke” (the hairy part; not edible) and scrape it away with a fork. This covers the “heart” which is the really good stuff.

This is what is normally used in recipes and what you should use in this week’s Recipe of the Week.

Artichoke hearts are also used in Middle Eastern and North African recipes. Add a can of artichoke hearts to roasted onions and mushrooms, a can of tomatoes, some garbanzo beans and a handful of raisins. Mix this in with couscous (grain pasta you can find in the pasta or rice section of the grocery store) and add garlic, curry powder, parsley, mint, a touch of cinnamon (Who knew it could be used in savory recipes?) and salt to taste. You’ve got yourself a classic and hearty Moroccan dish.

Again, to enjoy recipes with artichoke hearts the easy way, skip the directions and save yourself some time by buying them canned or jarred. But now you know, just in case you ever want to show off for family and friends.

[email protected]