Growing up I was one of the children on the free lunch program at school. I often ate peanut butter and sugar sandwiches or hamburger helper because that is all we had available in our home. While we never starved—due to great programs available to us and parents and grandparents that worked very hard to make sure we were okay—we never did really get to try new things or enjoy different kinds of vegetables. A lot of what we ate was frozen, in a can or fast food.
The times that I did get to experience great foods, often at my grandmother’s home where she would spend hours over the stove making home made spaghetti and meatballs or fresh strawberry topped pancakes, introduced me to a world with which I would someday fall in love. As I grew up and began to earn my own money and buy my own meals, I discovered my deep love for food— fresh, different, amazing food. My first year of marriage I think my husband and I spent $800 a month on groceries for just the two of us. YIKES! (Although, it sure is nice to have a partner that values good food as much as I do!)
We can’t spend that much on food nowadays with more bills and a kid (and one on the way). Though, even when we struggle with money, our food budget is one area that I work hard to maintain enough budgeted money so that we can enjoy fresh fruit, vegetables and quality proteins daily. I meal plan weekly to make sure that we are spending our food budget wisely and getting to try new things. Trying new things, enjoying great food, and sharing that experience with others is pretty much what my life is about. Which brings me to this post… I just had to try artichokes because I had never really had any success with them before!
These crazy looking vegetables have always alluded me. I love them in an artichoke spinach dip, but the one time I tried making them myself I had no clue how to even approach eating them, much less cooking them! Recently I was craving a really amazing Italian meal. At this point in my pregnancy I just knew I had to give into the craving before it drove me really mad, so I planned an Italian themed dinner party with friends. I knew that this was the perfect opportunity for me to give artichokes another try. After googling how to eat the suckers, I researched several different recipes to get the knack of how to cook them, and then tackled the project for the party.
After discovering just how easy artichokes can be, I’ve now made them a few times and love them more and more! Below are some tips for cooking (and eating) artichokes plus my recipe for Parmesan and Garlic Stuffed Grilled Artichokes.
Tips for cooking an artichoke:
The first time I tried cooking an artichoke I tried trimming, cutting and de-choke before cooking the artichoke. This led to a lot of pricks on my fingers, a bunch of furry bits all over my kitchen and most of the heart of the artichoke in my waste bin. It was an utter disaster and made me not want to try again. Thankfully, I found that doing just a tiny bit of prep and then steaming the artichoke makes the whole thing go much smoother.
- Trim your artichoke. Trim your artichoke by first cutting off the first inch or so of the tip of the artichoke. This one swift action will take care of much of the prickly parts! Then taking a pair of kitchen shears and cut the tips of all of the outer leaves. Trim the stem to about an inch or less.
- Steam your artichoke. Drop into a steamer basket with the stem side down. Steam for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The bigger an artichoke is, the longer it will take to cook. I put a knife in mine to test doneness. Once the knife easily slipped into the artichoke I called it good!
- De-choke your artichoke. You can then eat the artichoke as described below, taking out the choke once you get to it. Or, you can cut in half, remove the choke (the furry looking bit right above the heart of the artichoke) with a spoon and then eat the artichoke.
- Make it even tastier! For an extra tasty artichoke check out my recipe below!
Tips for serving artichokes:
- Serve with dip, lemons or olive oil drizzled across them. Artichokes have a great flavor, but really can be amazing with a little something extra.
- Serve with a discard bowl. There are parts of an artichoke you just don’t want to eat… give yourself and your guests a bowl or plate to toss their leaves so that the inedible bits don’t end up back on the dinner plate.
How to eat an artichoke:
- Go from the outside of the artichoke to the inside. Take the outer leaves of the (prepped and cooked) artichoke and pull from the stem. They should come off easily. The only edible part of the artichoke is actually the part that was attached the the stem. It will be lighter in color and look meatier than the rest of the leaf.
- Dip (or not) into your favorite condiment and place the edible end in your mouth. Scrape the meaty bit into your mouth and discard the rest of the leaf. Note: As you get further into the artichoke you’ll find that more of the leaves are edible and you’ll get to enjoy more and more of the artichoke meat.
- Get that heart! Once you get down to the heart of the artichoke (basically what is left of a prepped and cooked artichoke after all the leaves and choke have been removed) eat the heart whole! YUM.
- What about the stem? The stem of the artichoke is also edible if trimmed and cooked, but can be stringy and woody.
This recipe makes 12 quarters of artichokes that make for a great appetizer for a party of 8 to 12 guests or a hearty side for a meal for 6-8 guests.
- 4 large artichokes
- 1.5 cup shredded parmesan
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 3 lemons - 1 halved to use for juice and the other two cut into 1/8ths for serving
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- Trim the tip, leaves and stem of your artichoke.
- Place in steamer basket over boiling water, cover pot and steam for 15 to 20 minutes or until a knife can easily pierce the artichoke.
- While cooking artichokes prep your stuffing by mixing the minced garlic, parmesan and about 1/4 cup of olive oil in a bowl.
- Remove artichokes from steamer pot and let cool.
- A squeeze of lemon here will help preserve color a bit more and give the artichoke a great flavor. Use 1/2 of a lemon.
- Slice artichokes in half.
- Remove the choke (the stringy, fuzzy bit of the artichoke) using a knife to cut out around the heart area and then scooping it out with a spoon. It should come out fairly easily, but be careful not to take the heart with it.
- Cut artichokes halves in half to make quarters.
- Stuff the heart area and between the leaves with the garlic and parmesan cheese mixture.
- Drizzle with olive oil and then place on a grill with medium heat with the hearts facing up (you don't want the mixture to fall out!)
- Grill until the parmesan cheese mixture has fully melted, be careful to not leave the artichokes on the grill too long as they will easily burn.
- Serve with lemon wedges and a drizzle of olive oil!
Great posts on artichokes with instructional photos:
- — “Life lessons, artichokes, and hearts” from The Spicy Bee — Great photos showing how to cut the tips of an artichoke and a really sweet story that actually made me want to try artichokes again. Hers is so different from mine because she had been enjoying artichokes since she was a child. I hope my son looks back on food with the same fond memories!
- — “How to cook and eat an artichoke” from Simply Recipes— Step by step directions for cooking and eating an artichoke. I loved the pictures for how to eat an artichoke. I would never have ordered an artichoke out before due to fear of having no clue how to eat them! This post can keep you from looking like a fool at the dinner table.
- — “Prickly Treat” from Illustrated Bites— I love this illustration of how to cook and eat an artichoke SO much.