Steamed Artichokes with Aioli
4 Large, compact artichokes (preferably Globe)
Juice from 1 Lemon
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. One artichoke at a time, remove the tough outer leaves until the tender, yellow leaves are revealed. Cut off the top inch or so and remove the stem, leaving 1/4 inch at the base. Repeat until all artichokes have been peeled and prepared.
Add the lemon juice to the boiling water and then add the artichokes. Keep artichokes submerged in the boiling water until the base can easily be pierced with a knife or even fork tines -- tender but not mushy, about 20-25 minutes.
Drain and serve slightly warm with aioli, melted butter or straight up mayo.
To eat, remove a leaf and dip in aioli or condiment of your choice. With your teeth, scrape the meaty part of the leaf (and aioli) into your mouth and enjoy! Discard remaining part of the leaf.
But wait! There's more! Once all of the leaves have been cleared (and enjoyed!), you are left with a a few layers of paper-thin leaves covering the choke, the choke itself and the heart below. You can use a spoon or butter knife to clear away the thin purple-ish leaves and fuzzy choke (discard, they are a choking hazard and horrible for digestion) leaving the smooth, buttery heart-meat. The heart can be cut into pieces, dipped in aioli and enjoyed as well!
Optionally you can use a mellon-baller to remove the choke and purplish leaves before cooking, making it a little more elegant and cleaner once you are at the table.
The Down and Dirty Method
Sometimes, when you're just cooking for one, the microwave can be your best friend...
One artichoke, prepared as above and placed upside down in a small microwave-safe ceramic bowl.
Add enough water to be 1-inch deep around the inverted artichoke. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover tightly with cling wrap and microwave for 8-12 minutes depending on the size of the artichoke. Be sure to watch carefully after the 8-minute mark, periodically testing the stem for softness - when done, the stem will be soft when pierced with a fork.
Carefully remove to a trivet and immediately cut a hole in the cling wrap or remove all together to prevent a vacuum-like effect as the trapped air cools, squishing your pliable artichoke.
Drain off the remaining water and oil and invert artichoke onto a plate to cool slightly. Reuse the cooking bowl for the leaf scraps. Enjoy with aioli, melted butter or good ol' mayo.
3 Garlic Cloves
Pinch of Salt
1 Egg Yolk
1 cup Olive Oil
Crush garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle until a fine paste is formed.
In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon water until smooth. Add half of the garlic mixture and whisk well to combine.
Begin whisking the egg yolk mixture and, using a measuring cup with a spout, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the egg and garlic mixture. The sauce will begin to thicken and turn pale. As soon as the sauce becomes opaque (this happens rather quickly), you can add the oil more quickly but must whisk continuously.
If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it with 1/4 teaspoon water at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Add remaining garlic and a pinch of salt to taste.
Carciofi alla Giudia
4 Large, Compact artichokes
Oil for frying
Half a lemon
Bowl of ice water + 1/4 cup lemon juice to acidulate water
Small bunch of mint, minced
2 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Prepare the artichokes as for steaming, but do not remove the stem. Cut an additional inch off the top of the artichoke, leaving 1/2 to 1/3 of the flower in tact, including the heart but not stem. Peel the stem using a potato peeler to reveal the tender inner flesh. Place artichokes in the acidulated water to prevent discoloration.
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, cast iron or Dutch oven, heat 2-3 inches of olive oil (enough to almost cover the artichokes, not including the stem) until almost smoking. Meanwhile, allow the artichokes to drain on a tea towel or paper towels.
Place the artichokes, mint and garlic in the oil and cook for 10 minutes, turning to cook evenly. Remove the artichokes from the oil to drain -- at this point, they are Carciofi alla Romana, an can be served as-is as an antipasto or set aside to resume cooking later.
Strain out the mint and garlic and reheat the oil. Place the artichokes back in the hot oil to fry for 3-4 minutes, until the stem is golden brown. At this point, using tongs, pick up the artichokes and allow them to rest stems up in the pan. Carefully press down on the base, flattening the flower to the bottom of the pan and allowing the leaves to begin to fry. The artichoke should open up like a flower. Once they are flattened and golden brown, remove to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain. Continue until all artichokes are cooked.
Serve as-is or with lemon juice or aioli.