Although widely consumed in Mediterranean cultures, artichokes are often avoided elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, artichokes are simple to cook, fun to eat, and provide many important nutrients (several different minerals, vitamin C, and dietary fiber). An excellent way to prepare artichokes is to steam them, but in this article, I'll also discuss one of my favorite appetizers: grilled artichokes.
An artichoke is the bud of a thistle plant with seemingly inedible thorny "leaves" (properly called bracts) protecting a mass of tough (and often sharp) florets. Artichokes (more properly known as Globe artichokes or French artichokes) have no relation to Jerusalem artichokes or Chinese artichokes (both of which are tubers consumed as root vegetables). [IMG]
Cutting open the artichoke reveals its anatomy - which has already been color coded for us. The green areas are tough and inedible (the bracts that form the outer layers of the artichoke). Yellow areas are mostly edible. These include the meaty base of each bract (where it connects to the base or receptacle at the top of the stem), inner soft bracts, the receptacle (referred to as the heart), and the interior of the stem. Purple and white (the area directly under the purple) means "Don't Eat Me" - these are what would have become the purple thistle if the artichoke was allowed to fully mature. [IMG]
Let's take a closer look at the center of the artichoke. The fleshy recepticle at the top of the stem where all the bracts and the florets (the choke) attach to is called the heart. The choke is inedible, so needs to be removed either before cooking or while eating. [IMG]
I start preparing grilled artichokes the same way as I prepare them for steaming. I typically start by getting an inch of water boiling in a pot with a steamer insert as I prepare the artichokes.
Prep the artichokes by using a pair of kitchen shears to cut off the thorny tips of each of the bracts. Cut about 1/4 of the bract off during this operation. This is done as a courtesy to the diner's fingers (and it makes the artichoke look nice). [IMG]
Once the bracts have been trimmed, use a large, sharp knife to cut off the tip of the artichoke. Cut off either the whole stem or just the tip (where it's brownish black). The stem is edible, but unless the artichoke is very large, the flesh is quite bitter. If you plan on eating the stem, just cut a little bit off the stem. If not, then you can chop the whole stem off. [IMG]
If you're trimming multiple artichokes, you should place the trimmed artichoke immediately into some acidulated water (water in a large bowl with the juice of one or two lemons squeezed into it) to keep the exposed flesh from turning black or brown. I don't usually bother with the acidulated water - I prefer to simply place the artichoke into the pot to steam. As I finish trimming each artichoke, I add it to the pot. When I place the artichoke into the pot, I place it stem side up - they stand better that way.
Artichokes can be steamed until they are completely cooked (anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes depending on size). Sticking a fork into the stem (through the cut side) and meeting no resistance at all usually indicates the artichoke is done cooking. Remove the artichoke and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.
However, for grilled artichokes, just steam the artichokes for 15 minutes and remove. (While steaming the artichokes, preheat the grill.) The artichoke will be softened but not fully cooked. Cut the artichoke in half along its axis of symmetry. [IMG]
Using a melon baller, measuring spoon, or tableware spoon, scoop out the choke and discard. Be careful, the choke can make quite a mess if allowed to - just scoop and toss. If you miss a bit of the florets, use the spoon to scrape against the heart and the florets should come off onto the spoon. [IMG]
Cut open and remove the chokes from each artichoke and then brush the cut side of the artichokes with olive oil, being sure to coat the heart. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over the cut side and transfer to a hot grill. [IMG]
Grill over medium heat with the cut side up for 10 minutes and then flip the artichokes over and grill for another 5 minutes. Serve with Dijon mustard mayonnaise or sauce of your choice. [IMG]
Grilled Artichokes (one large artichoke per serving)
Boil 1 in. (2.5 cm) water in pot with steamer attachment / Preheat grill
1 large artichoke
steam 15 min.
cut from tip to base
grill 10 min. medium heat with cut side up
grill 5 min. cut side down
1 tsp. (5 mL) olive oil
salt and pepper
Dijon mustard mayonnaise dipping sauce
2 Tbs. (30 g) mayonnaise
1 tsp. (5 g) Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
It's not uncommon to entertain guests who have not eaten artichokes before. So, I've decided to include a brief pictorial of how to eat a whole steamed artichoke. (Eating a grilled artichoke would be the same, except the diner doesn't have to deal with the choke.)
Starting form the outside and working your way in, snap off each bract from the base of the artichoke. The bract will have a fleshy, yellow part (where it was attached to the artichoke) - this is the part you eat. Dip it in a sauce (or not) and scrape the yellow portion off the fibrous bract with your teeth. Place the spent bract in a discard pile and draw another bract from the artichoke. [IMG]
Once all the green bracts have been consumed, you will be left with a bunch of light yellow parts that have not yet become fibrous bracts. These are mostly edible, but may or may not be worth your time. Proceed eating them as you desire - or simply remove them as you would pluck petals from a flower. Eventually you will reach the purple color that signifies "Stop Eating". [IMG]
Just grab the purple "petals" and as much of the remaining "petals" underneath and twist and pull them off. This will leave only the florets of the choke. [IMG]
Use a spoon to scrape the florets off the base or heart of the artichoke. [IMG]
With the heart cleaned, the rest of the artichoke can be consumed in its entirety. The stem can be bitter (especially the flesh near the exterior), so some diners may wish to avoid it. [IMG]
As a special note, smaller artichokes can be consumed whole, choke and all, if the other bracts are removed. When pickled, the smallest of artichokes are sold as pickled artichoke hearts (they include not just the hearts but the soft tender bracts as well).
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1648 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Sun Jul 31, 2005 3:05 am Post subject:
If you grill medium or larger artichokes, you should peel the bracts off individually and eat just as if they were steamed. The taste will be a bit different and the bracts will be dry and a little crispy to hold.
If you use baby artichokes, you can eat the whole thing - but you should remove the outer layer of bracts first (as if you were planning to make fried artichoke hearts which would be another article). So, remove the outer bracts first leaving only the tender ones and steam, cut, clean, grill, eat.
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1648 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 8:30 am Post subject: Re: Indoor grilling alternatives?
Sure, try placing the artichokes about an inch under the broiler in your oven and broiling for a comparable amount of time (as if you were grilling). Keep an eye on it (just as you would on the grill) to make sure it doesn't burn.
On the indoor grill, you can try keeping the grill open and grilling them like that. Times will vary depending on the power of your electric grill.
Great article -- inspired me to actually try cooking artichoke for the first time.
I did try the George Foreman method (don't have a grill, can't use one at my apartment easily) -- I would suggest maybe extending the cooking time beyond the 10 min (flip) 5 min for the electric option. My 'choke was cooked well enough, but didn't get the blackened, grilled flavor or look.
Will have to try the broiler next time.
Also did a variation on the sauce -- yogurt with dijon mustard, a little worcestershire, and some "cajun" spices. Was quite good...and just so this doesn't start a "healthy" war -- I hate mayo.
Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2005 8:12 am Post subject: Artichokes
I discovered your site this morning after reading an article on artichokes in an Italian magazine for Americans living in-country (I went to Google...). I am an accomplished cook and have rarely seen such complete directions for artichokes in particular. Cudos to you!
Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2005 1:43 pm Post subject: grilled artichokes
Just discovered your site, and as a teacher, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the "presentation" of your lesson. A picture truly is worth more than a thousand words! Can't wait to try to recipe.
Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:56 am Post subject: Grilled Artichokes
Thank you! Outstanding, clear easy to understand steps re grilled artichokes... am steaming my home grown ones as we speak, ready to be grilled. Am very much looking forward to perusing the rest of your site. Congratulations and thanks again.