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Misadventures with Artichokes

I’ve had a bit of a frustrating time learning how to make sure the artichokes were not over-ripe and then how to cook them right.

over-ripe artichoke
Looking at it now I can’t understand how I even thought there was a possibility these would be fine after steaming.

So what I learned is that if the leaves on the globe artichoke are turning purple then it’s way too over-ripe. Another sign is if the leaves don’t close tightly at the centre, if there’s a little gap or hole at the top, then they are also far too gone. If the leaves are dried out and cracking down the centre, again they’re too ripe. The artichoke should be heavy, green, leaves tightly holding together and while a bit of brown on the leaves is fine any signs that they are drying out is a sure sign that there won’t be any good eating on the leaves – but the hearts may still be fine.

artichokes
They are much greener but up close you could see the leaves were drying out a bit.

I found a good page on recipetips.com for artichokes – this tells you everything you need to know. I had bought two lots of over-ripe artichokes at that stage.

For the last one I decided to boil them rather than steam them. It works just as well, when you take them out of the pan you turn them upside down on kitchen towel to drain them. One mistake I made with them though was to add ground pepper to pot – it gets between the leaves and looks like dirt – not good.

If boiling, add whole peppercorns as opposed to ground pepper. Thyme leaves also got trapped in the leaves so it might be a good idea to wrap in some muslin.
If boiling, add whole peppercorns as opposed to ground pepper. Thyme leaves also got trapped in the leaves so it might be a good idea to wrap in some cheesecloth.

One thing that did work very well was making a garlic-lemon butter for a dipping sauce and that works really well with the artichokes. This isn’t a recipe post – just sharing a bit of a kitchen disaster – but I’ll be using the garlic lemon butter with something else soon so I’ll share that then, it’s really simple.

boiled artichoke with garlic lemon butter
After removing the fuzzy inedible centre I poured a tablespoon of the garlic lemon butter into the artichoke, by the time you got to the heart it was delicious. Which is good because the leaves were not really.

So is that the end of the disasters? No, I thought I’d try the baby ones but then I didn’t read the instructions on how to bake them carefully enough. I didn’t remove enough of the tough outer leaves and these turned very rubbery while cooking. The inner leaves and peeled stems were lovely but the outer leaves did ruin it. I baked them in some olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and I threw in some walnuts 5 minutes before them were done.

baby artichokes
Artichokes are part of the thistle family and they are the flowering fruit part of their plant.
baby artichokes pre bake
You should peel the stems (which I did) and remove the outer leaves until the pale softer ones are showing (which I didn’t). Oh well…
You then quarter them, toss them in something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar, and bake with some herbs and/or garlic, salt and olive oil.
baked baby artichokes
If only…

And the moral of the story is … I’m done with cooking artichokes for this year.