The Art of the Artichoke
By Angela Denstad Stigeler
Let’s get to the heart of the matter: the artichoke is an intimidating vegetable. Not only does it guard its flesh with thorny scale-like leaves, it places a hairy, inedible “choke” directly over its heart. But just because it doesn’t offer itself up as readily as, say, a cucumber doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. In fact, the artichoke is a steadfast member of the thistle family, overwintering to bring its edible buds and flowers as some of the earliest heralds of spring. To eat an artichoke is to savor each hard-won bite as you dip and scrape the tender bits off each leaf. It’s a savory delight, made sweeter if touched by frost and coming now into full season. Though not the bright fresh green of late spring, the artichoke holds a subdued hue and hearty flavor all its own, complimented here by a classic sauce accompaniment. As you’ll see when you get down to it, the heart is the art of the artichoke.
Artichokes with Ravigote Sauce
4 globe artichokes, trimmed
1 lemon, halved
¼ cup coarsely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon drained capers
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives and tarragon
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large stainless steel saucepan. Trim the top inch from each artichoke and, using scissors, trim off the tips of the remaining leaves. Trim and peel the stems. Rub the cut surfaces of the artichokes right away with the lemon halves to help prevent browning. Add the artichokes to the boiling water, squeeze in the lemon juice and put the lemon halves in the water. Use a small plate or clean dish cloth as a weight to hold the artichokes under the water. Bring the water back to a boil and cook, uncovered, for about 35 minutes, or until a leaf can be easily pulled off.
Pour the hot water out of the pan and rinse in cold water. When cool to the touch, drain and gently press them between your palms to extract as much water as possible without breaking them. Spread the leaves of each one apart and pull out the center cone of leaves all at once, exposing the hairy choke. Scrape out the choke with a teaspoon, then turn the cone of center leaves upside down and return it to the hollow artichoke center.
For the sauce: Combine the onion, capers, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the herbs in a small bowl. Serve each artichoke with a small bowl of the sauce and garnish with the remaining herbs.
Recipe adapted from Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin