Diving Into the Artichoke, That Delicious Mess

It takes a lot of trimming to get to the heart of an artichoke, but don’t let that stop you.

Comments: 77

  1. Unless you have one of those artichokes with huge thorns on the tips, trimming the leaves *IS* entirely unnecessary and wasteful. Only the oldest, woodiest, and most ungainly leaves nearest the stem need removal. No, the thicker leaves can't be chewed, but scraping the flesh off a well-steamed and lemon butter-dipped artichoke with your teeth is part of the whole delicious artichoke ritual. Relegating this idea to a mere French footnote does a great disservice to artichoke appreciation, never mind encouraging food waste.

  2. Rather unfair. Not "a mere French footnote": Ms. Clark has provided a whole recipe for this way of doing it--"Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Butter." And why complain about the provision of these other interesting Italianate options, which are also excellent in their different way, and will be appealing to some people (such as me). There are various different good ways of eating anything, not just one way. That's why I have cookbooks written by various different authors. There's always a chance to learn something new!

  3. Amen, Vanessa

  4. I have been forced to scrape the leaves with a spoon because of tooth issues, but the leaves are wonderful and I still prefer mayo to butter.

  5. Of all the times Ms. Clark needed a video, this was it. A text description of cleaning and trimming an artichoke is barely helpful.

  6. @George Oliver: YES! Bring on the visual instructions.

  7. I don't understand all the fuss about trimming the artichoke. Steam or boil (or finish on the grill) and dig in. If you are worried about hurting yourself on a sharp artichoke leaf, you should leave the table. A squeeze of lemon, melted butter, sour cream, or hollandaise is the only thing you need . Carve the heart at the table and fight over it. Trimming in the kitchen is for restaurants. At home, just relax and enjoy!

  8. @ carrie germany An interesting comment. At home, I boil the artichokes until thr biggest petals come easily off. Then it is ready and the leaves, dipped into whatever one likes, are scraped with teeth. Finally one gets to the core, removing the layer of the thin sharp needles. In a restaurant, there may be a question of table manners: does one manipulate cooked food with one's fingers? Perhaps the trimming comes therefrom ...

  9. We cut ours in half and scape out the fuzz BEFORE cooking them, its easier, and the halved artichokes cook up a bit faster too.

  10. excited to try this! thanks!

  11. In my family we grew up eating artchokes with homemade hollandaise, dipping the leaves in the sauce, and scraping the flesh with our teeth unntil we got to the heart. For many years (decades), I have considered this entirly too much work, brcause the rest of the meal gets cold. However, baby artichokes cooked the way they do in Rome -- NOT carciofi all giudia as discussed earlier this week -- are marvelous. If you're not in Rome Mark Bitman published a wonderful recipe in 2008 (https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/dining/04mini.html), and David Tanis another in 2011 (https://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/13/dining/cooking-baby-artichokes-city-k....

  12. Artichokes intimidate me. I could never get past their outer sharp layer nor scary skin. For me and my extremely limited exposure to many vegetables, they are in the same mysterious camp with leeks. I agree with George Oliver's comment - a video would have been prudent with this article. Just some food for thought Ms. Clark.

  13. Marge, if you can shop at Trader Joe's, try the frozen artichoke hearts: microwave with minced garlic, butter, and any of the following: black olives, capers, shrimp!, lemon zest, cherry tomatoes, mozarella balls (using less time for the latter two). Fantastic quick meal. Or steam, sautee!

  14. Elle - what a magnificent suggestion! There is a Trader Joe's close by my work and by my home. Your recipe sounds incredible. All of your suggestive ingredients are my favorites, well except for the cheese. Sounds like a great meal to enjoy after watching the Kentucky Derby today. You are awesome, thanks so much!

  15. @ Elle Kitchen Allow me to disagree with you about patronizing Trader Joe's: I find it a chaotic, low-class food store.

  16. Mellisa Clark - In addition to having a great sense of food, you are an amazing writer with a unique voice. I love the way you string a sentence together. Thank you!!

  17. Robert - I completely agree. Even if I am not partial to the particular food or dish Ms. Clark is referencing, I read her articles because of her writing style for it is so entertaining and educational. Great comment Robert. Thank you Ms. Clark for your much anticipated articles.

  18. Never mentioned is that artichokes are one of the most energy intensive foods to cook -- for so little payoff.

  19. Not if you do them in a pressure-cooker - 8-10 min, depending on size. But I never trim mine - too much tasty artichoke at the base of those thick leaves.

  20. mmwhite, I agree. And part of the joy comes from the sensory experience.

  21. I learned how to cook artichokes from "The Joy of Cooking," given to me by my mom 35 years ago when my husband and I married. It was easy - trim the top third, pull off the tough lower leaves, trim the stem and boil in water with lemon juice. If you want to be fancy, trim the tops of the leaves in a vee pattern. And that copy of Joy of Cooking- after all these years it's literally falling apart at the seams, but I much prefer it to the newer editions.

  22. Every California native I know (we grow a gazillion artichokes in Watsonville, CA) follows these directions; minus the overkill of the "vee pattern". We're proud of the work we put in to eat it in this format, and there isn't that much to consume in even a large 'choke; so anything that slows one down, extends the pleasure. It does, however, lead to an evil practice of letting innocent tourists take "the first bite" and try to eat the entire thing. Scraping the edible layer off each bract (leaf) with ones teeth gets you the most cynarine (a powerful anti-oxident) from the plant.

  23. Instant Pot works great! Cook em, stuff em, the hearts are perfect- no trimming needed!

  24. Did in butter? Why?

  25. What happened to the videos?

  26. Hear hear! re. Melissa’s videos suddenly gone missing with neither warning nor explanation! One would certainly be helpful here. Also, has anyone else noticed that the Cooking app no longer has the most recent recipes when you scroll to the bottom? Explain yourself, Sam Sifton!

  27. Don't know if I've ever seen artichokes with stems that long! Guess I should grow my own... Thank you Melissa, but I agree with previous comments that a video would be helpful.

  28. You might be able to, in Scottsdale.

  29. Learned to cook these working at Reuben's back at their founding in Newport Beach. Cut top off. Trim the outer leaves. Off with the stems. Boil in pot of water with olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, parsley, basil, thyme. Place a smaller sauce pan with enough water in it on top to weigh the artichokes down so they remain submerged. Bring to boil and simmer for about a half an hour. Drain, serve with drawn butter or whipped mayo, maybe an aioli. Dip the outer leaves and scrape the soft part off with your bottom teeth. Scrape the fibers off with the side of your fork and enjoy the heart. Have large bowl to discard the waste. Been doing this for so long that it is second nature. And it is actually pretty easy.

  30. Cant imagine wasting evoo and balsamic in water to throw away. I cut the stems off but put them in the pot. Also, I grew up eating them cold with the o&v, unless we had them stuffed. Speaking of stuffed, canned hearts cut in half and mounded with garlicky stuffing are a great app out of season. When I was a kid in NOLA, they were a dime. Why so expensive now?

  31. We meld the two approaches. Steam whole artichokes and have the fun of peeling off each petal but dunk them in vinaigrette. Mint or basil or parsley too.

  32. Ms. Clark, thanks SO much for your tip about cooking artichokes in the Instant Pot (which appears at the end of the recipe for steamed artichokes). Now I'm on the lookout for artichokes, which we love.

  33. Just the opposite. I like artichokes because of the ease of preparation. Steam and eat.

  34. The key here is Baby artichokes. Why they have had no traction i cannot understand. Really easy to prepare.

  35. Lemon isn’t the only way to prevent oxidation. Put the trimmed artichokes in cold water with a spring of parsley. You’ll get the same result but without the smell of the lemon.

  36. I have never considered trimming an artichoke, but maybe I will try that sometime. I have cooked and eaten thousands of artichokes, mostly steamed in a pressure cooker (about 15 minutes for a large choke). The real controversy is whether to eat with melted butter or mayonnaise, which can lead to rather heated discussions. Many artichokes you buy in the store have very little flavor, but you never know until you eat it. We used to have our favorite artichoke connection at a local farmer’s market, but haven’t seen him in years — they were always good and usually only around a dollar each. Now you can buy a tasteless one at the grocery store for four dollars. Artichokes are also extremely nutritious by the way, and I still eat the overpriced bland ones. I refer to artichokes as “the lobster of vegetables”.

  37. Artichokes in season were a routine item at my family's dinner table when I was growing up. I wish I had my mother's recipe! She'd cut the tops straight across, cut the stems flat, run them under cold water & work the petals a little open with her fingers, then spoon a delicious bread-crumb filling between the petals before steaming the artichokes. When served, you pulled off a petal and scraped the bread-crumb mixture (which had settled to the bottom of the petal) and the little fleshy part with your teeth, and set the remainder of the petal aside on a separate dish. (I always at the heart as well, which not everyone in our family did.) I've always appreciated that stuffed artichokes were something quite ordinary at our family dinners - there was no sense of intimidation nor of "ceremony" - you just ate them! On a business trip to Europe years ago, I attended to a fancy corporate dinner party at which each guest was served a whole artichoke. I was one of the few who had no hesitation about dealing with it. Many of the other (American) guests looked at it like it was a UFO that had landed from outer space; they were afraid to touch it & had no idea how to approach eating it, which was a shame. I was told later that I had impressed the European hosts by knowing how to eat an artichoke correctly.

  38. @ L NYC Your reminiscence of the different reactions to artichokes by Usans and Europeans is an old dilemma, what foods on the table does one with with one's hands, and what with utensils only. Recently a lively discussion was published in FOOD Section on the eating of asparagus. Artichoke's bracts or "leaves" one has to peel by hand. Perhaps a tool could be invented that would firmly hold each bract while one scrapes the flesh with teeth, similar to asparagus thongs or little forks for holding a boiled ear of sweet corn.

  39. I too have been eating artichokes since I was a small child. There was no ceremony as you say, but the methodical ritual of starting a meal with one set the tone for a long slow paced Sunday dinner that consumed most of the day. As a partial consolation I offer up my mother's stuffing recipe from her bridal index cards circa 1942- For each 4 artichokes- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs 1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese 1 finely minced garlic clove 4 tablespoons chopped parsley salt and pepper to taste lemon juice olive oil mix all ingredients except olive oil and lemon juice trim whole artichokes by removing the toughest stubby leaves at the bottom- usually the outmost 5 or 6 with scissors or a sharp knife cut the top straight and trim any sharp ends cut the bottom level so the artichoke stands straight wash the artichoke and press it open to make spaces between the leaves soak in bowl with lemon juice and water to cover-10-20 minutes drain upside down on towel press the stuffing into the artichoke pushing it down into the base of each leaf drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into artichoke steam in 2-3 inches of water 20-30 minutes until a leaf pulls off easily keep warm until all your cousins arrive talk, laugh, argue politics (with love) and enjoy!

  40. Crumbs made from day-old italian bread, minced garlic, minced parsley, olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped black olives, grated romano cheese.

  41. Use kitchen scissors (I still have my 25+ year old Joyce Chens) to quickly snip off the thorny tips.

  42. I can’t find decent artichokes, I long for the Italian ones of my younger days.

  43. Pare the stem, pull off the small leaves at the base then wash and immediately put into a gallon zip lock bag. Close but leave about an inch unsealed. Put one bag at time into a microwave. Depending on the size of the artichoke I usually set the timer for 6 minutes then pull it out and reverse the bag for another 6 minutes. Perfect every time.

  44. Artichokes are one of the foods that truly make me wonder how the first human to eat one ever decided "Huh, that looks tasty, I bet there's good stuff in it."

  45. Along with olives and cheese.

  46. Artichokes...most beloved of vegetables! Let's not forget Jewish-style artichokes from the Roman Jewish ghetto. Hard to make and messy too, but so, so worth it. You really need the kind of artichokes that aren't so easily found here, the teensiest, tenderest of baby artichokes (which aren't babies at all, I believe, but another type of artichoke). Make them for someone you love.

  47. Melissa is obviously unafraid of the any bugs that might make this all non-kosher

  48. At least you didn't say dip them in mayo.

  49. dip them in lemon mayo!

  50. Homemade mayo is wonderful with artichokes. It's so much better than what you get out of the quart jar from the supermarket.

  51. What has happened to all the wonderful videos that used to accompany the articles? Would have been especially helpful for this — I’m never sure how to work with an artichoke!

  52. Don't throw away the tough leaves and trimmings: boil or microwave them, shred/pulp them in a food processor with the liquid, then press the resulting mush through a sieve (and a conical hat strainer, if available). The resulting artichoke puree is the basis for a delicious soup (add leek, potato, celery), liquify with an immersion blender, add a little cream, salt & pepper.

  53. Ah.... I find the answers here entertaining... being from Castroville (artichoke capital of the world) area, and surrounded by artichoke fields, and artichokes growing wild in my garden. Fry them in olive oil, steam them, microwave them, make an artichoke fritata, or even a tostada, dip in butter, (apparently sacrilegesly in mayo), if I don't dine on them at least once a week, I have a hard time surviving. That along with fresh caught salmon is part of living here. And there are many varietals of artichokes sold in local nurseries. The smaller "jerusalem artichoke' are usually grown for their hearts as opposed to the leaves. Enjoy and Bon Apetite.

  54. Ah, yes! And around Castroville are farm stands that will have bargain prices at the height of the season. This means seven artichokes for $1. I was once able to get small artichokes at ten for $1; that was a chance to practice the methods of cleaning and trimming. By the way, there are now plenty of strawberries in Castroville.

  55. I still make artichokes the way my mom did, often served as an after school snack. Makes me miss her less. Similar to the method described at the end: cut off the top, trim the leaf tips with kitchen scissors, and cut the stems off. Place in a pot with an inch or so of water, resting on their stem end. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Steam for an hour or until leaves easily pull out, then eat dipping leaves in butter. Finally, fight over fair distribution of the hearts. Discuss the school day. The process and the result are deeply nostalgic. I miss my mom.

  56. Bless your dear heart. I miss my mom, too. xo

  57. My Sicilian-American mother made them that way, and so do I. Years ago, there was an Italian greengrocer in my neighborhood who got baby artichokes on Mondays. Every Monday afternoon, after work, I would buy pounds of them. They required almost no trimming and were entirely as delectable as the morsels obtained by the article's trimming method. I would steam them and then dunk them whole in a garlicy butter sauce. Oh yum. Oh missing glories of yesteryear. How I miss that one vegetable store and those baby artichokes.

  58. Makes me long for the stuffed artichokes that an Italian grandma in my grandparents' neighborhood would make... In the .80's, when I moved to Manhattan, I found them at Balduccis.

  59. If any cooking article needs a video, this one does!

  60. I agree with Bridget- Where have the Melissa Clark videos gone? Missing the weekly visits of her cooking capers. Please bring them back.

  61. Never thought of them as exotic. They were just a treat we had when they were in season. Stuffed with a savory breadcrumbs. After 67 years I think I might remove a crown of two pulling them through my front teeth. It would be worth it.

  62. In winter, don't be put off by artichokes that look somewhat discolored. That probably means they're a bit frostbitten. Often those are the best.

  63. P.S. There is no reason to pay top-dollar for visually unblemished artichokes.

  64. Right now, enjoying in Belgium the nicest artichokes I have eaten in a long time. Artichokes can also be eaten with a vinaigrette, one of my favorite ways of eating them leaf by leaf.

  65. I love all the comments about more traditional ways of eating artichokes. My Nonna served then steamed and stuffed with breadcrumb mixture -- as far back as I can remember, I loved peeling each leaf off and scraping the pulp with my teeth. The last 4 bites of the heart were the "dessert." I can't really see the point in throwing out all the thick leaves -- just the very outer ones and the tough tips. Too delicious to waste a bite. We also often steamed them and dipped each leaf in a garlic, lemon, melted butter.

  66. Yes, we eat them more or less like this. There is so much good eating on the the lower inside of the fat outer leaves that I would feel wasteful to discard before cooking. Something like sucking out the tiny but delicious lobster legs. In fact having fresh boiled lobster and freshly steamed whole artichoke is a promising menu! Lots of aioli for dipping too.

  67. spring ritual...trimmed and steamed, then dipped in butter and sprinkled with freshly grated parmesean

  68. We live in Tuscany for part of each year, generally when it is artichoke season. My favorite salad is made with the tiny artichokes. First, clean the artichokes (there is never any choke with the small ones), slice them paper thin, give a good squeeze of fresh lemon, add salt and pepper, shave thin slices of Parmegiano Reggiano cheese, and splash really good virgin olive oil over the salads. Premium ingredients are the key to this raw salad that sings in your mouth, crunchy, slightly bitter, acidic and sweet, all in one bundle of goodness. I made the salad last week, cleaning thirty teeny artichokes while watching TV.

  69. Like some other commenters, I really miss the Melissa Clark videos. Since the Times seems anxious to promote video on its website, why has this most useful and delightful feature been eliminated? It would have been great to be able to see the process described for artichokes!

  70. I've never quite understood the point of trimming artichokes down like this. Cut the tips off the top so it sits flat, steam, and then work your way in, ideally dipping in aioli, olive oil, or butter as you go. Even the outer leaves are good at the base--why waste them? What's the rush?

  71. I don't get all this " plucking and trimming" and decrying the " messy heap". Eating an artichoke is a simple task, no trimming necessary. Steam or boil as you like. I add a tablespoon of olive oil in the water as it gives the finished product a nuttier flavor. And what's this snobbish notion that mayo is out of the question as a dipping sauce? Butter is the exquisite choice, but mayo works as it does on so many other things and is handy as a dollop of it on the side of the plate can be swiped as the petals are peeled away. Prepping the heart? A piece of cake. It's not a mess. It's a ritual.

  72. I don't prepare artichokes at home. At $3.50/pound locally, by the time I trim away at least half of it, that's $1.75 in the garbage. Nope. Not at my house. Not on my budget.

  73. Another brilliant essay from Melissa. Love the roasting idea. I usually just clean them and cut them into bite size pieces and either roast them tossed with olive oil at 425 for 20 m or sauté them in olive oil until golden and tender. Melissa’s way of cleaning and quartering them makes for a beautiful presentation. I’ll try this next.

  74. this is a great story and advice on how to use artichokes i never tried it before but i would defiantly would love to try some cause i heard it was good i always eyeball when we go to the stores

  75. I grow an artichoke plant in my plot in the community garden. I have been harvesting artichokes for two weeks now, with more to come. If you let the artichokes mature they turn into beautiful blue exotic flowers--but who can bear to do that? If you steam them the day they are picked . . . the flavor is incredible. Delicious mess, indeed! Thanks for the recipes, Melissa Clark!

  76. No artchoke novice here, but this is totally unnecessary!

  77. From way back: https://youtu.be/9JlLyK8fA4M ;-)