How to Cook (and eat) an Artichoke

was born and raised in California, where artichokes grow in many backyards and festivals are held in their honor. I’ve eaten them for as long as I can remember, hot for dinner, or cold for lunch. They have always seemed like the toy of the food world; something about the hands-on way you eat them. But in some places, they’re still considered a mystery; overlooked at the supermarket. Which is a sad, awful dietary and taste-bud-denying mistake.

ometimes I have an artichoke all by itself for dinner, because they’re healthy, filling, low calorie, and delicious. One large artichoke contains only 60 calories, has no fat, and is full of anti-oxidents. It has 14 grams of carb, lots of potassium and vitamin C and lots of healthy fiber. Of course I override all this positivity by dipping them into mayonnaise laced with lemon juice…but hey.

Here’s how to cook them . . .

Choose artichokes that have leaves still relatively tight.

ut off the stems flat to the choke; rinse artichokes under running water, then put them in a large saucepan and drizzle olive oil over the tops, about one tablespoon or so per artichoke, so it gets down into the leaves.

prinkle with lots of freshly ground pepper; fill the pan with water; put in about a teaspoon of salt; cover the pan; put it over high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer about a half hour or 45 minutes. They’re done when a fork stuck into the stem-end slides in effortlessly. Undercooking makes for a very bad result, so make sure they’re done. You can pull out a leaf to test; if the meat doesn’t slide off the leaf and melt in your mouth, they aren’t done.

hile you’re waiting you can get the dipping sauce ready. For each artichoke you will probably need around 1/4 cup of mayonnaise. Which is good enough for dipping the leaves in all by itself; but mixing it with a squeeze of lemon juice adds a little something extra. Gilding the lily means you would add Parmesan cheese and tarragon to the mayonnaise. You can make your sauce with light mayo mixed with the extra smooth and creamy Greek yogurt if you like. Some people dip the leaves in melted butter, which is also good, but not quite as good as mayonnaise, in my humble opinion. (Don’t you think the words Humble and Opinion, together, make an interesting oxymoron?)

emove from water and drain. Eat hot, or chill and eat later. (I often cook an extra one to put in the fridge.)

ou’ll want a large plate to hold the leaves; serve with a knife, so you can clean the “heart” when you’ve eaten all the meat from the leaves.

How to Eat your Artichoke

ull a leaf off the artichoke, dip the wide end of the leaf into the mayonnaise;
The meat is that bump at the end of the leaf, just draw it through your teeth and pull the meat, along with the mayonnaise off as you go.

eep pulling off the leaves until they are too thin and flimsy to go on, then pull all the rest of the leaves off and discard. What’s left is this, the heart.

se your knife to separate the “choke” away from the heart…it’s the natural way it wants to go, so it’s very easy to slip your knife around the edge and pull out the choke. The heart itself is very smooth.

ut the heart into quarters, dip into mayo and eat.

The End

hen you’re finished you have all this good stuff left over to put into your compost heap! It’s a win-win–good for you, good for your roses!
Whole, cooked artichoke hearts can be a wonderful vehicle for sauce — with fish or in a salad. You can buy them canned, but the fresh are a thousand times better and a gourmet luxury because of the work involved in getting them…I like to surprise my guests by using them as a special addition to my Salad Nicoise.

24 Responses to Artichokes

  1. Maryellen says:

    I can’t wait to try them. What a fantastic tutorial!

  2. Tricia B. says:

    Marvelous!!! Simply Marvelous!! Thank you!!! XO, Tricia B.

  3. Nina says:

    Fabulous Susan! I have to say I have always been a little “afraid” of these! But I am definatly going to try one now I know how! Many thanks xx

  4. Pat Mofjeld says:

    My parents moved from Iowa to Calif. when they were newly-married, moving back to Iowa when we kids were born. They learned to love artichokes when living there, and we were raised to love artichokes, too. Interestingly enough, I ended up marrying a man from Calif. (that I met when he moved to the Midwest) and he also grew up eating and loving artichokes. While we were raised to dip the cooked leaves in melted butter, my husband was raised to dip them in mayonnaise. This seemed so strange to me when we were first married but I quickly became a “convert” so I had to smile when I saw the photo of the little bowl of mayonnaise! But the next time we have them I’m going to try adding the lemon juice! 🙂

  5. Linda Pintarell says:

    I’m California bred and born and Artichokes are about my favorite food ever (close tie with other “A” California food called Avocado). The above made me salivate; I too use it as a “dinner” choice – all mine. Great tutorial for people who have never had them; they do not know what they are missing.

  6. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Mayo kinda gal here too, but now I’m going to add the lemon! Good thing God chose you to be Susan Branch, you even do artichokes beautifully! The End.

  7. Debbie Ferguson says:

    I had my first artichoke way back in the mid seventies with my husband and they served it with Dijon mustard at a resturant named “The Velvet Turtle” sadly the resturant does not exist now. I still use the Dijon mustard when I am watching my weight, it really is quite good. But still love the Mayo and Butter.

    • DC says:

      The Velvet Turtle! Oh my goodness, that brings back memories. Also Putney Station popped into my head! Those we the days! Good days.

  8. Carolyn Neal says:

    Hi Susan,

    I am going to try this!! Thank you so much!! When I was going through my divorce 13 yrs ago, my sister and I stopped at a restaurant downtown after seeing the attorney. She ordered for me because I was so distraught. She ordered a dish of pasta and artichokes… telling me it is the most wonderful thing in the world! Ha! NOT! That was my first experience with artichokes…YUCK! Evidently, it was just the “timing” ….tried them again a few years ago and WOW! I love them!! 😀 Have never tried to cook themself…so it is about time!! 😀

  9. Debbie says:

    I have a wonderful dipping sauce for artichokes from “Walts Wharf” restaurant in Seal Beach. Been there? Can give to you if you’d like.

    • sbranch says:

      Love Walt’s Wharf…it’s near my mom so we go there all the time when we’re in California. Would love the recipe. Isn’t it nice to walk out on the wharf!?

  10. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Made “your” artichokes, loved them! I guess I should’ve sent a pic of the pile of leaves left on our plates! Thanks for the recipes! xo

  11. Linda says:

    Another intersting twist for a de-lish-ous dip is to add a little bit of pesto to your mayo! …Yummmm! Also, I add lemon juice to the boiling water while cooking the artichokes. …Love all the sharing!!! :}

  12. Ana says:

    Try mixing mayo with mustard. It can be either yellow or dijon. Delicious.
    Thanks so much for sharing all the beautiful things in your life and your memories. You are a big inspiration in my everyday life.

  13. Ronda says:

    I have always admired their beauty, when I would see them in the grocery, but I have to admit that I’m intimidated. Until now! Can hardly wait to go to the grocery! Thank you ever so much for sharing your joys with us!

  14. Cecelia says:

    My mother’s parents were from Sicily so she was exposed to many different foods one of which is artichokes. This is how she would fix them: pull the bottom leaves off and cut off the trunce (this is the stem) to make the bottom flat. Cut the top off with a knife (about 3/4 of an inch); using kitchen shears, snip the points off the leaves that are left. Spread open the leaves and rinse with water. Turn them upside down to drain. Meanwhile, prepare Italian breadcrumbs (I use the boxed kind,about a cup) with fresh garlic, salt, pepper, grated Parmesean or Romano cheese and finally some chopped parsley. Set the artichokes right side up and stuff with the seasoned breadcrumbs filling each “pocket”. Drizzle olive oil over the tops and cook. I have always used a pressure cooker but steaming in a large pot will work just as well. I know I didn’t include measurements but this is one recipe that I am able to just wing and you really can’t mess it up. We always ate them with crusty bread and now that I am old enough, plenty of red wine. Once you get to the heart, kind of mash it on the plate and spread it on a piece of the bread with a sprinkle of salt and you have heaven right there in your mouth. Enjoy!

  15. Karen P says:

    This blog is a very Julia Child-like cooking class! The only thing better, dear Susan, would be to see your sweet face on a video teaching the technique! Ha! Artichoke have always been a mystery to me….will definitely have to try this! “Bon Apetit!”

  16. Mary Lou says:

    My husband is Italian (grandpa from Salerno), and Cecelia’s recipe is just the way he does artichokes. We raised our kids loving stuffed artichokes, and now it is the thing to do at family get-togethers. Stuffed artichokes and homemade gnocchis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *