One reader asks: "I love artichokes, but have never bought or prepared them myself. What do I need to know?" We do too, and now is a great time to enjoy them. To find a good one, inspect the vegetable's spiky armor at the store; tightly packed petals indicate freshness, while looser, frayed ones signal it may be spoiled. (The same guidelines apply to the baby varieties, which are just smaller buds from lower on the stalk.) The classic way to cook an artichoke is to steam it whole. Serve everyone her own with a few dipping sauces—we love melted butter with a squeeze of lemon, or aioli—and let them sink their teeth in, leaf by flavorful leaf.
Savor It All
If your recipe calls for only the heart, set aside the cooked large leaves to dip, and save the small, delicate ones (closest to the choke) to put in a salad. You can refrigerate the leaves in an airtight container for up to three days.
Easy Prep in Simple Steps
1. Remove the extra-tough outer leaves, then use a serrated knife to slice off the top quarter.
2. With kitchen shears, cut off the sharp tips of its outermost petals.
3. Trim the stem so the bottom is flat, then steam until tender when the base is pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes.
4. When cool, use a spoon to scoop out the center cone, then scrape off the purple leaves and fuzzy choke. Serve with the sauces noted above.