As a kid, the only green vegetable I willingly let into my mouth without making faces and disgusting noises was the artichoke. Knowing what I know now about the seasonality and regionality of food, I'm pretty impressed that my mother was able to get her hands on artichokes in Minnesota all those years ago. As a born and bred Californian, my mother loved artichokes just as much as we did. That said, I think she was motivated to stop the retchings, gaggings, and death rattles at the dinner table more than anything else.
I grew up scraping my eager teeth across the "strip the leaves and dip them in hot melted butter" globe variety, and it wasn't until I moved out to California that I really had any experience with delectable baby artichokes. These little suckers are now in season, but if you don't know how to strip and cook them, they can end up tough and bitter.
You want the leaves to be tightly closed. The more open the leaves are, the more likely they are to have a choke.
The stems of artichokes are just as delicious as the artichokes themselves, but the tougher outer skin should be stripped down. Using a very sharp paring knife, carefully peel off the layer.
This is what a clean stem looks like.
Snap off all the outer leaves until you get down to the tender pale green/yellow leaves.
Trim off the top of the leaves and cut the artichoke in half lengthwise.
Because artichokes start to brown (oxidize) the moment you cut them, toss them in a bowl of acidulated water. That is, water that has lemon juice squeezed into it.
Sauteed Spring Artichokes
Serves 2 as a side dish
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Spring onions, thinly sliced
1 lb baby artichokes
1/4 cup water
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a high-sided saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, raise the heat to medium-high, and sauté the onions for about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the artichokes, stirring to coat with the olive oil. Splash in the water and lemon juice and cover the pan. Stirring every so often, simmer until the base of the artichokes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
You can serve these artichokes as a side dish just as they are or with a little Fiore Sardo grated on top, but I also like to combine them with farro and snipped chives, with pasta, or with roasted potatoes.