Don’t be intimidated by fresh artichokes! They may look prickly, but once trimmed and cook, their mild, nutty flavor shines. Artichokes can be simmered, pureed, stuffed, fried, grilled and even shaved and eaten raw. Read on for our best tips for working with artichokes, then find some simple ways to prepare them this season, straight from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Buy heavy artichokes with tightly closed, olive green leaves and moist, healthy stems. A few purple streaks on the leaves are okay, but limp, brownish globes should be skipped. Seek out baby artichokes, which have a more delicate flavor and texture. To store artichokes, sprinkle them with a few drops of water and store in a perforated plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to a week. If you’re cooking them on the same day you buy them, leave them at cool room temperature.
Prep tips: To trim artichokes, start at the base, and pull off and discard the tough outer leaves until you reach the tender yellow inner leaves. Cut the stem off flush with the bottom of the leaves and discard it, too. Use a serrated knife to slice off the top 1 to 2 inches of the remaining leaves to remove the thorns. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise through the center. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the furry choke and drop the halves into a bowl of lemon water. If your recipe calls for quartered artichokes, cut each half lengthwise and then drop the quarters into the lemon water.
Cooking tip: Use only stainless-steel knives and cookware when preparing artichokes, since carbon steel, aluminum and cast iron will discolor them soon after they are cut. Don’t be alarmed if they do turn a darker color — the discoloration won’t affect their flavor.
Raw Artichoke Salad: Thinly slice artichoke hearts with a mandoline. Toss with olive oil, plenty of lemon juice, parmesan shavings, salt and pepper.
Fried Baby Artichokes: Trim and halve artichokes and soak in buttermilk. Dredge in a mixture of equal parts regular and semolina flour. Pour 1 inch of canola oil in a pan and heat to 375 degrees F. Fry artichokes in batches until golden and crispy. Drain and serve with aioli.
Braised Artichokes: Trim artichokes, remove chokes and slice into halves. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with lemon slices, top with artichokes and pour in chicken stock or white wine to within 1 inch of dish rim. Season with salt and pepper, seal with foil and bake until tender in a 400-degree F oven.
Artichoke Spread: Pulse cooked artichoke hearts in a food processor with garlic, lemon, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Spread on toasts or sandwiches.