Artichokes are a special treat—as an appetizer or side dish they’ll elevate an ordinary meal to an occasion worthy of real conversation. And conversation you’ll get since it takes awhile to eat these enormous, spiky flowers. Pluck each leaf individually and scrap the tender flesh off with your teeth—but first dip it into a lemony mayo sauce. Our sauce isn’t true aioli. If you feel inclined to mix up the classic garlic, egg yolk and olive oil mixture, please do. But if you’re in a pinch or want something simple, try the sauce my family always enjoys—something a 10 year-old can manage. And it’s actually pretty tasty.
Once you’ve eaten down to the flimsiest, pale yellow leaves, you’ll need to cut out the inedible, fibrous choke that lies underneath. Take a knife and cut around the fibrous circle, then lift the entire disc out. What’s left behind is aptly called the bottom. Pile some sauce in the empty crater and pop it in your mouth.
The lemon-pepper blend from Trader Joe’s is a quick route to lemony-garlic-pepper flavor, but if you want to get slightly fancy, you can easily substitute lemon zest, a bit of pressed garlic, salt and coarsely ground black pepper for the dried spice mix.
- Whole artichokes
- Best Foods Mayonnaise
- Fresh lemon juice (half lemon per artichoke, plus more for aioli)
- Trader Joe’s lemon-pepper (with grinder) or lemon zest, pressed garlic, salt and coarsely ground black pepper (see headnote)
- Cut the stem off each artichoke and remove small lower leaves. Rinse each artichoke well under cool, running water to remove grit hidden down at the base of the leaves. If the leaves are thorny, carefully cut the top 1/2 inch off the entire flower, and snip the spines off the tips of the particularly threatening leaves. Squeeze lemon juice over the cut top and the surface of the leaves and rub in. This will help preserve the bright green color as the artichokes cook. Alternatively add lemon juice to the cooking water. Or, if you don’t care so much about color, skip the lemon juice, and the artichokes will achieve a deep khaki color as they cook.
- Place artichokes stem side down in a steamer in a pot of water. Bring water to a boil, cover pan and turn the heat down to medium-low. Steam the artichokes until tender—anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on size. To test for doneness, pull on a leaf. If it separates easily from the flower, chances are the artichoke is done. To be extra sure, test the leaf by scraping the flesh off with your teeth. If the flesh comes off easily, the artichoke is done. If the flesh is still firm and resistive to scraping, allow the vegetable to steam for a few more minutes, then test again.
- Once the artichokes are done, remove them from the pot with tongs, and cool.
- Mix up the sauce by adding lemon juice and lemon-pepper to mayonnaise in the proportions that suit your tastes—sample with a leaf or two to test. We like ours on the lemony side. With lots of pepper, too. If you prefer, mix a bit of lemon zest, pressed garlic and coarsely ground pepper with mayonnaise instead of the dried spice blend. Add some salt. Taste to test proportions.