April means a lot of things — my dad's birthday, my boyfriend's birthday, Easter lilies, blooming dogwoods, the return of short-sleeve weather. But it also means the return of fresh, seasonal produce — namely asparagus and artichokes. Every spring, I try to cram as much asparagus in as possible, as I refuse to buy it out of season. But I typically only enjoy artichokes once or twice and that's enough to last me through the next year. They are a lot of work, after all.
Start by trimming the pointy little horns off all the leaves. Then lop a little off the top and whack off the stem.
This step isn't totally necessary, but the artichoke looks much fancier after a little groomin'. Rub the leaves with a half a cut lemon to prevent browning. Then you can either steam the artichoke in a steamer basket for about 45 minutes or steam it in the microwave for 20 minutes. Here's the freshly-steamed artichoke I ate for dinner tonight:
I prefer the stovetop steamer basket method, as it doesn't dry out the tops of the leaves. But sometimes, like tonight, you just don't want to wait 45 minutes to eat. Both methods make for super tender artichoke "meat."
To eat, just pull it apart leaf by leaf. Dip the white bottom part in a flavorful dip and scrap off the meat with your teeth. I served mine with two dips — Tangy Tofu Salad Dressing from Meatless Burgers by Louise Hagler (this is like a low-fat version of vegan mayo) and some Cedar's Roasted Garlic and Chive Hummus.
Keep a large bowl handy for discarding the inedible portion of the leaves. Once you work your way down past the leaves, remove the prickly hairs and indulge in the tender artichoke heart. I like to spread my artichoke heart with loads of dip and savor each bite.
Check out this link for an illustrated step-by-step guide to cooking and eating artichokes.