There are some events in life that a person remembers forever; the first day of school, bringing home their first pet, first kiss, and in my case, first time I ate an artichoke. But unlike the other first’s in life which may result in homework, housebreaking, or heartache. My first exposure to artichokes began a love affair that continued throughout my entire life.
I was a young 16, vegetarian, and thought that I had been exposed to every possible vegetable out there. But I was wrong, so very wrong.
Although I can’t remember all of the particulars of that day, I’m sure it started as any other, with the sun rising in the morning, and the earth slowly rotating around the sun. I do remember though, that I was headed off on one of my babysitting accounts, unaware that life would soon change for me, and everyone around me. It was at this babysitting accounts that I found the mother draining a pot of water, and removing odd, conical shaped, army green vegetables. (I should mention here, that my love of cooking had begun at least a decade before, and that one of my cardinal rules of cooking was to never cook anything until it reached army green status, and for this reason I was somewhat horrified that these poor veggies had succumbed to their cooking fate.) I knew she was cooking artichokes, at least, I knew of the veggie, but I had never tried one, at least, not one that hadn’t been brined, bleached and canned in a jar. Turns out, the mother explained, that artichokes turn army green when they are cooked thoroughly, and hadn’t been cooked to tasteless mush as I had imagined. Patiently, she taught me how to eat an artichoke, pulling the leaves through my teeth, scraping away the choke, and savoring every last bite of the heart. LIFE CHANGING! The next day, I drove to our local grocery, and happily spent some of my babysitting earnings on four beautiful, green artichokes. I prepared them exactly as she had explained, stuffing the leaves with garlic, pouring a little olive oil into the heart, seasoning with salt and then placing in a lidded pan with an inch of water, simmering for hours, basting in the garlicky water…This was how I prepared artichokes for a few years, until I found myself in a boutique with my now-husband and happened upon a small artichoke shaped book. I can no longer remember the title, but the information it contained was mind-blowing. A way to cook artichokes in 20 minutes or less and without making the hearts soggy, could this be true? Blissfully, the answer is yes, and I am here to show you how to do just that.
The process is simple. Begin by preparing the artichokes. To do this, cut about an inch from the tip, snap off the first two layers of outside leaves and cut the stem down to under an inch. Give them a good rinse, rub the cut ends with a bit of lemon juice (to prevent browning), now they are ready to go.
If you’d like, you can slice one clove of garlic per artichoke and place the slices between the inner leaves.
Find a large microwave-safe bowl. Add some olive oil, chopped garlic or a squeeze of lemon and a half teaspoon of salt to the bottom of the bowl. Place artichokes upside down in the bowl.
Add a half cup of water.
Cover with plastic wrap and pierce the plastic wrap a few times with a fork to allow some steam to escape.
Pop the bowl into the microwave and cook on high for ten minutes, then in additional five minute increments until the leaves about three rows from the outside pull easily and are tender. (The artichokes should also turn army green). My microwave cooks the artichokes in about 20 minutes, my mother’s cooks in 15.