Knowing how to cook artichokes is awesome! And so easy…

Artichokes are intimidating, and though I’ve been a “foodie” most of my adult life, I’ve never cooked one! And I’m not alone among my foodie-friends, as I’ve never been served one outside of a restaurant. I knew they were a plant, but I guess I assumed they only grew in cans.

In my first attempt at cracking these well-armored and un-appealing bad-boys of the produce department, I discovered that they are just as easy to prepare as any other vegetable, and well worth the effort. They are meaty, flavorful and contain an abundance of health benefits.  High in fiber, they can lower cholesterol and blood pressure when eaten regularly, improve liver and digestive systems function, and deliver high doses of antioxidants.

How to Cook Artichokes: To get started, cut the vegetable in half. I leave the stems on, as they work well as handles. And though the “meat” inside the stem was a bit fibrous, I found it edible, and as I paid $3.50/plant, they are too good to throw to waste. Note: this is the hardest part. If you can get through this, the rest is easy.

Most recipes instruct to discard the purple choke at the center before cooking, but again, I wanted to wait and see. It is no problem to remove it after cooking if you desire. There are a couple of good bites there, so leave them in the first time and judge for yourself.

Add 3-4 inches of water and a tsp of salt to a stock pot and bring to a boil.  The artichokes will float (similar to corn on the cob), so no matter how much water you add, they won’t be submerged. Rotate them a few times while they are steaming. Cook with cover removed (so steam can escape) on medium high for about 45 minutes. Check for tenderness. They should seem fragile, threatening to fall apart if you’re not careful. Use tongs and a spatula to remove from the water. Place in a large, preferably metal, bowl.

Note: These store nicely in the fridge, so if you are hosting a grill party, prepare in advance and store in the marinade.

Marinate for at least an hour. I make my own. Whisk the following together:

Place them on the top shelf of a hot grill, reduce heat to low, and close the lid. Flip once after about 10 minutes, and use leftover marinade to baste again.

Note: If they start falling apart, don’t worry! Collect wayward pieces and place in a grill pan (I use a cast iron skillet) and finish cooking. Add extra pieces back to the final product or keep them as pirate booty for your efforts.

Create a dipping sauce by adding excess marinade to Veganaise or Mayola. Taste-test for yourself, but I find that 1 tbsp of marinade per 1/2 cup of Veganiase is perfect.

Serve as the main entree, or a complimentary side dish.

Note: The inside is very tender and easy to eat. But the petals have meat too! Simply place between your teeth and scape the pulp, discarding the remains like edamame shells.