Most people think of artichokes only as the hearts that come out of a can or jar or occasionally the freezer. They casually throw them into salad or maybe cook them with chicken and rice. Very little thought is given to the rest of the vegetable. I freely admit that steamed artichokes are an acquired taste – one that I acquired as a very young child. My mother frequently served them with a lemon butter sauce or a simple vinaigrette – both wonderful and something you should consider trying. I recall the fun of peeling off the leaves one by one and dipping them in the sauce while I grabbed that teeny bit of edible green at the bottom between my teeth. I would peel and dip and discard over and over anxiously waiting to get to the prize at the bottom – the artichoke heart. But first I had to winnow the leaves down until I came to the spiny purplish leaves which covered the fibrous choke. The trick then was to dig out the choke without losing even the tiniest bit of the heart. That wonderfully green, firm/tender taste of the heart was the final destination at the end of the journey.
I haven’t made artichokes in years but I saw a recipe in the Sunday Chicago Tribune newspaper by Leah Eskin that reminded me how truly simple they are to prepare and I made up my mind to make some. You want to find nice green, fat globes. They can be eaten warm or cold with a host of sauces. My husband was not a huge fan, but for me – well, it brought back many fond memories and I enjoyed it immensely. Give it a try and make up your own mind.
Steamed Artichokes with Tahini Sauce (I always make extra sauce since left-overs never go unused)
Yield: Makes 2 but can easily be doubled or tripled
1 lemon cut in half
1/2 cup tahini
2 cloves of garlic
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt plus 2 teaspoons
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or fresh cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground sumac
2 bay leaves
2 large, fat artichokes
- Trim the stems of the artichokes with a large chef’s knife. You only want about 1/2 inch of stem and the artichoke should be able to sit flat on its bottom. Using the large knife, cut through the top third of the artichoke, discarding the leaves. Pull off any nasty leaves along the bottom of the artichoke. Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip off the sharp points of the remaining visible leaves so that the top of each leaf is flat.
- Place the artichokes cut side up in a deep pot that is large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour in cold water to a depth of about one (1) inch. Place one garlic clove and the bay leaves in the bottom of the pot. Place 2 teaspoons of salt in the pot. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a dish or measuring cup and set aside. Place the lemon halves (without the juice!) into the pot. Bring the water to a boil,cover the pot and reduce the temperature to a simmer. Steam until tender, which took 25 minutes for me. When the artichokes are tender (test by piercing a sharp knife into the base) carefully remove them from the water. Either use tongs or a large slotted spoon. Place them cut side down onto a clean dish towel and allow them to drain for at least 10 minutes. Discard everything else. The artichokes can be made up to a day ahead and eaten cold or you can eat them immediately.
- While the artichokes are cooking make your sauce. Place the well-stirred tahini into a bowl or measuring cup with the lemon juice. Whisk until well blended. Then add the remaining clove of garlic that has been crushed, the 3/4 teaspoon of salt, the Aleppo pepper and enough cold water to achieve the consistency of sauce that you like. When you serve them, be sure to have a place for people to discard the leaves and individuals bowls of the sauce for dipping.