Small artichokes tastier, less soggy than large

Ready-to-eat produce remains scant at weekly meetings of Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market in Medford. Although summer’s sure to bring loads of garden-fresh veggies, many farms, like Bigham and Happy Days, are staking their market presence on plant starts.

I did, however, run across artichokes at Fry Family Farm’s stall yesterday. They drew my eye not only because they’re organic (like all of Fry’s offerings) and beautifully purple-streaked but because of their small size.

You may wonder why I’d rather purchase baby artichokes — and at more than $1 apiece, for that matter. The answer couldn’t be simpler. Small artichokes cook faster and thus are less likely to come out soggy. Plus the stems of large ones can be really fibrous.   

Last year, I was delighted with boiled artichokes I had purchased from Fry. By contrast, giant globe artichokes bought earlier this spring at Medford’s Food 4 Less yielded disappointing results. Sorry, Sherm: I usually love your store, but sometimes the produce looks like it’s on steroids.

So my small artichokes are slated to accompany creamy porcini penne for a celebratory meal this weekend with old friends.

If you’ve never cooked an artichoke (how is that possible?) or need a refresher, here are some innovative instructions from Jan Roberts-Dominguez’s March 29, 2006, A Fresh Approach column. Note that, yes, I was following Jan’s advice about cooking stem-end up. But the reality is, a large artichoke’s longer cooking time increases the sog factor.

Pick a non-aluminum pot that’s wide and deep enough to accommodate your artichokes (single layer, with their plump shoulders snugged up against each other for stability). Fill the pot with just enough water to reach about one-third up the sides of the artichokes when they’re sitting in the pot.

To the water add five or six cloves of coarsely chopped, fresh garlic, five or six peppercorns (if you have them), a 1/4-inch-thick slice of fresh lemon (peel and innards) and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Feel free to add some fresh herbs while you’re at it — lemon thyme and oregano, for example.

Trim your artichokes by slicing off all but about 1/2 inch of the stem end, then trim away the upper inch of the pointy end to create a flat surface (sort of like a buzz-top haircut). Place the artichokes side by side in the pot, stem-end up (buzz-top side down). Now, this move is contrary to how many cooks treat their artichokes. Many like to cook artichokes stem-end down. But you are less likely to have a soggy heart if you keep that stem side up and out of the water.

Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook just until the stem end tests tender by piercing with a sharp knife or fork. Depending on the size of your artichokes, this will take anywhere from 25 minutes for medium to medium-large, to 45 minutes for large to jumbo.

To double check for doneness, remove one of the artichokes with tongs (they’re very hot!), turn it over on the counter and pluck one of the leaves near the center. If it comes out easily and the flesh is tender, they’re done. Serve immediately while hot, at room temperature or chilled. To prepare a platter of artichokes for an appetizer, feel free to cook them up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerate.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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