An artichoke is not a vegetable. It is a flower, or it would be, if it were allowed to bloom. At the stage we eat it, before the bright purple blossom emerges, the artichoke is actually a fat, succulent bud.
There are many types, some the size of an egg and others as big as baseballs, in colors from pale green to violet.
There is no denying that an artichoke requires a bit of work. First, you discard a number of tough outer petals, or bracts. For large artichokes to be steamed whole, most cooks snip off the sharp tips of each petal with kitchen shears and cut off a portion of the top. Steaming takes about an hour.
Then comes the familiar ritual of plucking off petal after petal and nibbling on the tiny bit of flesh each one offers, anticipating the sweet, meaty heart of the artichoke at the center, the prize of the whole ordeal.
All the while, you are dipping into an accompanying sauce, whether that be melted butter, vinaigrette or mayonnaise.
There are other approaches: Roasting is one. An old-fashioned way is to cook smaller artichokes in the hot embers of a wood fire. This gives them, obviously, a smoky, roasted flavor that emphasizes their sweetness. If you have the opportunity, give it a try some time.
Another popular preparation is to stuff large artichokes with a savory breadcrumb mixture and roast them whole.
But I have an easier method for roasting medium- sized artichokes. I trim them, cut them in half and remove the hairy, inedible choke, then simmer them in salted water for 10 minutes. All this can be done well in advance of roasting.
A half-hour before serving, I drizzle them with olive oil, tuck a few thyme sprigs here and there and pop them into a hot oven. The artichokes emerge crisp, with a tender interior. I serve them with a zesty, lemony anchovy- flecked mayonnaise.
They may, of course, be served as a side dish, but I like them best as a first course, to be enjoyed without distraction.
ROASTED ARTICHOKES WITH ANCHOVY MAYONNAISE
By David Tanis, New York Times
- 1 large lemon
- 4 medium artichokes (about 2 pounds)
- 1 large bunch thyme sprigs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley, for garnish
- Lemon wedges (optional, for serving)
- >> Anchovy mayonnaise:
- 1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
- 6 anchovy fillets, rinsed, blotted and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon capers, rinsed, blotted and finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons juice (from 1 lemon)
- 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic (from about 2 medium cloves)
- Pinch ground cayenne
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Cut lemon into quarters; squeeze juice from each quarter into water. (This acidulated water will keep the artichokes from discoloring.)
Snap off a few of the tough outer leaves (bracts) near the stem of each artichoke. Cut each artichoke in half from top to bottom; lay halves cut-side down on a cutting board.
Using a sharp vegetable peeler and working one half at a time, trim rough edges and stems. Cut 1/4 inch from bottom of each stem and 1/2 inch from top of each half. Turn halves over and use a teaspoon or melon baller to remove the hairy “choke.” Place trimmed artichoke halves in lemon water; let sit until ready to cook.
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add drained artichoke halves to water; simmer 10 minutes. Remove and place artichoke halves cut-side up in a stainless steel roasting pan or ceramic baking dish, in a single layer.
Tuck thyme sprigs under artichokes, and sprinkle artichokes with salt and pepper. Drizzle generously with olive oil, about 1-1/2 teaspoons per halved artichoke. Bake, uncovered, brushing with oil from the pan occasionally, until nicely browned, 30 to 40 minutes.
To make anchovy mayonnaise: Combine ingredients in a bowl. Let sit 5 minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning.
When artichokes are ready, transfer to a serving platter or individual plates. Brush lightly with oil from roasting pan. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with anchovy mayonnaise and lemon wedges, if you like, on the side. Serves 4.
Nutritional information unavailable.