Last week, little miss specifically requested that we have artichokes as our vegetable with dinner one night. This really came kind of out of the blue to me - I had, believe it or not, never actually handled a fresh artichoke before, and had no idea how to actually prepare one. The only artichokes I'd eaten before were artichoke hearts that had already been cut, prepared, and were in a jar of some kind of prepared marinade. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised by her request. Surprised, but absolutely ready and willing to give it a shot. I mean, how many four year olds specifically request a vegetable they've never tried before? There was pretty much no way to say no.
So a few days later, at our local Produce Junction, little miss helped me pick out two artichokes. They were two for a dollar, so double the fun, right? Now, as I said, I have never handled fresh artichokes before, so I had no clue how to pick out a good one... I tried to look for ones that were neither tightly closed nor totally "bloomed" open, and ones that didn't look visibly browned or bruised. I figured those were good rules of thumb, right? Regardless of my cluelessness, little miss was thrilled with our purchase.
Once I got the artichokes home, I had the challenge of figuring out what, exactly, to do with them. Most of the recipes that I found are for boiling them, which I am sure is the easiest way to go about cooking them. Unfortunately, my big pot was spoken for that night, so I went in search of a recipe for roasting the artichokes. I managed to find a couple, but was not completely convinced by any of them. That is mostly due to, well, my complete lack of knowledge about what fresh artichokes even taste like. So what I decided to do was create my own way of preparing them, based on a little bit of each recipe that I had read.
The first thing I did was to trim the tops of the artichokes (as every recipe indicated) and then quartering them. The main reason for quartering, rather than halving them, as most recipes indicated, was to cut down the cooking time. I also tried to remove as much of the fuzzy "choke" (something I had no idea even existed mere hours prior to this effort...) from each piece as I could. I decided that my main flavorings would be lemon, salt and pepper, with a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I lightly oiled my pan, laid each section of artichoke on a thin slice of lemon, squeezed extra lemon juice on top with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, and gave the tops a light drizzling of olive oil. I was pretty pleased with how these looked as I covered the pan with foil and popped it into the oven.
After about half an hour, I peeled back the foil to check on the artichokes. Again, never having cooked these in any way before, I wasn't positive exactly how to check for done-ness, but they felt much softer to the touch, smelled good, and had definitely browned a bit, so I took a guess that they were ready.
So how did they turn out? To be honest, I would have to try them again, and probably a couple of different ways, to really know for sure, but the crowd here seemed very pleased with them. We each started with one wedge, and both daddy and little miss finished theirs very quickly and immediately asked for seconds. I definitely took that as a good sign. It made a nice side for our pasta and meatballs, and, though it seemed like quite a bit of effort for the amount of actual, edible artichoke, it was very fun and I was glad to try something new.
If anyone reading has any artichoke experience, or a really great way of preparing it, please share it here - I definitely want to try this again and am very open to suggestions!
1 day ago