Relax, It's Just an Artichoke

This leafy, multi-layered vegetable may look intimidating, but it's a lot easier to trim, steam and devour than it seems.

Recently I was asked to name my favorite vegetable, and I was stumped — or torn, as I like so many. My sister, however, would not have hesitated for a second: favorite vegetable, artichoke; second favorite, artichoke; third favorite, artichoke. She might actually choose an artichoke over a slice of cheesecake. (Just kidding; she’d choose the cheesecake.)

For many of us, artichokes are definitely one of the most alluring and mysterious vegetables around. A tender, slightly sweet heart sits in the middle, surrounded by a battalion of pointy leaves — artichokes look much like flowers, and they are actually a member of the thistle family. Perhaps part of their mystique is that so little of the globe-shaped vegetable is good to eat. Essentially it’s the heart, the base, that‘s edible, and when you cook an artichoke and pull out the leaves, a small piece of the choke attaches itself to the base of the leaf and can be scraped off with one’s teeth. Then, once all the leaves are gone and the bristly thistle is scraped away, the artichoke bottom is there for the eating. In short, if you are a person who loves lobster and is willing to go through the work to extract every delicious morsel, then this is your vegetable.

To cook perfectly tender steamed artichokes every time, check out Katie’s step-by-step gallery; then make her Steamed Artichokes with Harissa Mayonnaise Dipping Sauce.

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