Don’t fear the artichoke. Here’s how to steam and conquer it

artichokes

Don’t fear the fierce-looking artichoke. Instead, learn to conquer and eat it. Here’s how. (Photo by Laura Groch)

It pains me to see food misused. I once nearly keeled over while watching a cooking-show host take some very fine lobsters, remove all the meat from the shells, then puree it, mix it with other stuff and pour it into a baking dish. Oh! what a terrible way to treat beautiful, succulent lobster meat!

Similarly, I was shocked to see on another show a vendor at an open-air market slicing all the leaves off an artichoke to reach the tender (and yes, delicious) heart. Oh! what a waste of tasty leaves!

But I can understand it — somewhat. You may be familiar with jarred artichoke hearts, but the alien-looking artichoke with its layers of thorny leaves can be intimidating. Though the leafy outside looks formidable, those leaves also offer some good eating.

The bristly leaves come naturally to this member of the thistle family. Artichokes are also the base for the Italian aperitif Cynar. (What? an artichoke-based liqueur? Yes. It’s partly because of the unique property of artichokes to leave a lingering sweet taste after you’ve eaten one. Try this: Eat an artichoke leaf (or a piece of plain artichoke heart), then have a sip of plain water. It will taste sweet. But I digress.)

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