Artichoke ABC's

Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

n Artichoke leaves will "squeak" when rubbed with your finger, an indication that it's tender. Artichokes that are past their prime will sound hollow and dry.

Photos By Sue Ade
Photos By Sue Ade
Artichokes are at their peak from March until May. When purchasing artichoke know that size doesn't matter, but rather indicates from where on the thistle plant it comes. Large ones come from the top of the plant, the smaller ones from the sides of the plant's stalk. If artichokes are not going to be stuffed, their "fuzzy" chokes may be removed before or after cooking.

n Buy artichokes that feel heavy and firm. Avoid artichokes that feel light for their size, which indicates that they have begun to dehydrate. Artichokes with brown markings are not signs of spoilage. These "kiss of the frost" streaks can signify a "nutty" flavor.

n Cynarine is a compound found in artichokes that creates a chemical reaction in the mouth that makes other foods and beverages eaten with them taste sweeter.

How to handle and cook artichokes:

* Store artichokes in a plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

n Submerge each artichoke into a bowl of cold water and plunge them up and down to remove any

debris.

n Using stainless steel utensils, cut artichoke stem and upper third of top with a knife. Trim off thorny ends of leaves with a scissor and rub cut edges with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Pull loose leaves from around bottom of artichoke.

n If artichokes are to be stuffed, remove fuzzy center (choke) with the point of spoon or a grapefruit knife, taking care not scrape away the tender heart at its core.

n Cook artichokes by steaming or microwaving:

To steam: Place artichokes, stem side up, in a steamer basket set over 3 inches of boiling, lightly salted water. Place a few lemon slices in the water, cover and steam for about 30 to 45 minutes. Artichokes are cooked when one of the leaves can easily be pulled off. Drain artichokes, upside down, on a paper towel to remove excess water.

To microwave: Place 1 cup of water and a few lemon slices in a 3-quart microwave safe dish. Place artichokes in a circular fashion, stem side up in the dish with 1 cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap, turning back corner slightly to vent. Two medium artichokes will cook in about 10 minutes, 4 artichokes, in approximately 15-20 minutes. Test for doneness and drain as directed in steaming directions.



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