Warm or cold, artichokes a singular spring starter

A short-season springtime vegetable, singular in its freshness and flavor, can whet one’s appetite like complicated canapés simple can’t.

Such was the premise of this blog’s previous post, basically an encouragement to serve a board of garden-fresh radishes with compound butter for your next gathering. A chilled stone slab (I have one inset in a wooden tray) keeps the radishes juicy and butter from getting too soft on warmer days like the holiday weekend approaching.

Artichokes are another stand-alone starter that need little in the way of fuss or adornment. While this blog previously has featured instructions for steaming artichokes, I’ve never shared an actual recipe for this very straightforward process.

I prefer artichokes still warm from the pot, but they do make an attractive cold appetizer with one or two dipping sauces. Usually preferring lemony, garlicky aioli with mine, I was intrigued by this suggestion from the Chicago Tribune for serving them with lemony garlicky tahini, a nod to the popularity of those flavors in hummus and a welcome alternative for vegan guests.

Tribune News Service photo

Earthy Artichokes

1 lemon

1/4 cup tahini

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Kosher salt, as needed

4 large, heavy globe artichokes

1 bay leaf

Halve the lemon across its equator. Juice, saving spent halves. Pour the tahini into a small bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Tahini will thicken dramatically. Whisk in cold water, a little at a time, until sauce is right for dipping.

Mash 1 garlic clove and 1 teaspoon salt to a paste. Whisk into tahini sauce. Taste. Add more lemon, water or salt as needed.

Using a serrated knife, trim away top third of 1 artichoke and all but ½ inch of its stem. Snap off any sad-looking outer petals. Using scissors, trim prickly points off all exposed petals. Repeat with remaining artichokes.

Settle artichokes, cut sides up, in a large pot. Pour in cold water to a depth of 1 inch. Add lemon halves, along with remaining garlic, the bay leaf and about 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and let artichokes steam until tender (pierce with a knife tip near base), for 20 to 30 minutes.

Use tongs to lift out artichokes. Cool cut side down on a clean kitchen towel for at least 10 minutes. Serve artichokes warm or cool, along with tahini sauce for dipping and a bowl for spent leaves.

Makes 4 servings.

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    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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