Steamed Artichokes with Speedy Aioli

Before I got married, I had never eaten an artichoke–one that didn’t come out of a can anyway! Artichokes were a favorite in my husband’s house though, and I quickly learned two things: Although they seemed daunting to prepare, they are really quite simple; and they taste simply amazing!

My kids refer to them as “fun food.”  You pick the outer leaves off first, scraping the “meat” off with your teeth, slowly working your way to the prize–the heart.  Until tonight, I had never eaten baby artichokes.  I guess I always subscribed to the bigger-is-better-theory with artichokes, but this is not necessarily the case. Typically, the fuzzy choke must be removed before the heart can be enjoyed.  With the baby version, there is no fibrous choke, just edible heart.  Even the inner leaves could be eaten whole.  This is not to say I will forego the full-grown version;  I will simply grab the babies whenever I see them!

I used to serve artichokes as a side dish.  Recently, I have made them the main course. They are quite filling and are worthy of a starring role on your dinner plate.  My husband’s family likes to dip the leaves in a little melted butter.  If there are leftovers, they are delicious served cold, using a little mayo with a squeeze of lemon as a dip.  I like just a tiny bit of mayonnaise, whether eating the artichoke warm or cold.  If I have a few extra minutes, I will make this Speedy Aioli.  While some like to trim the tops of the artichokes to make them look pretty, I think they look great as is and don’t bother!

Steamed Artichokes with Speedy Aioli
When buying artichokes, I look for ones that feel heavy for their size and firm.  If they feel spongy, pass them by.  Also, take a peek at the stem end.  If it looks brown and dried like it was cut weeks ago, it probably was! While some people trim the tops of all the outer leaves prior to cooking, I simply trim the stem end so the artichokes will sit upright on the plate.  That said, if the stems are thick and fresh, there will be good "meat" in there, too, so you may choose to leave them on.
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For the Artichokes
  1. Whole, fresh artichokes
  2. 1-2 bay leaves
  3. 2-3 tablespoons white vinegar
  4. 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
For the Speedy Aioli
  1. 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1/2-1 teaspoon lemon juice
  3. 1/2-1 teaspoon garlic, mashed into a paste
  4. 1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Artichokes
  1. Cut the stems from the artichoke to form a flat base, and remove any small leaves from the stem end.
  2. Put a steamer basket in the bottom of a large stock pot filled with 2-3 inches of water. The water should come to the bottom of the steamer basket. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, and vinegar to the water, and then place the artichokes on the steamer basket. (I don't bother to measure the vinegar anymore but just give it a good glug; precise measurements don't matter here.)
  3. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer full-size artichokes for 45-50 minutes.  Baby artichokes will probably take between 25-35 minutes, depending on precise size.  (I thought this seemed like a very long cooking time when I first started cooking artichokes, and I do typically like my veggies al dente. However, the longer cooking time allows you to get more "meat" off the leaves and makes for a tender, delicious heart. That said, the artichokes should not feel mushy or fall apart when lifted from the pot.)
  4. When finished, use tongs to remove to a plate and serve with melted butter, a little mayo, or the speedy aioli.
For the Speedy Aioli
  1. Mix all ingredients well.  If desired, you could add a little pesto to the mixture for a fun twist.  Serve alongside the artichokes.
  1. Leftover sauce is great on sandwiches or as a sauce with other vegetables, pasta, or chicken.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen


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