Globe artichokes are in season. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, they are the bud of a member of the thistle family, harvested when they’re still tightly closed, then cooked in a variety of ways. The simplest way to prepare them may be the best. Trim the thorns from the tips of the leaves, then cut off the top with a sharp knife. Rinse under running water. Cut the stem pretty close to the base (it’s bitter), or if the artichoke is young and tender, peel it to expose its delicious pale centre. Put a large steamer on to boil and add a couple of crushed garlic cloves, a slice of lemon and a bay leaf to the water. Steam until you can easily pull out a leaf from the side. For a large artichoke, it can take 20 or more minutes so watch that it doesn’t boil dry. When they’re done, remove the tiny leaves near the base and put them in a small bowl to serve.
Your dipping sauce can be as simple as melted butter with lemon or garlic or mayonnaise with a dash of balsamic. Put it within reach of everyone as well as a large bowl for what you discard. I suggest you prepare a table with something to catch the drips and pull out the bibs. Eating artichokes is messy!
First you pull an outer leaf, dip it and put it between your teeth, soft side down. Then pull it out, scraping off the tender flesh with your bottom teeth. Discard the leaf and keep going. Eventually you get to a tender cone of thin leaves in the centre of the bud. You can squeeze this gently and remove it intact from the base. Check that the centre is hollow and that the ‘choke’ is still sitting inside the base before you dip it into your sauce and nibble right the way around. Now for the best bit! Take a spoon and gently scrape the inedible ‘choke’ out the centre of the base. You can also pinch the choke and pull gently and those hairlike bits will come out in clumps. This leaves you with the whole base ready to dip and enjoy.
I hope you try them if you’ve never experienced this delicious Mediterranean treat!