Even though the weather in Napa has been 100% summer—in the 80s every nearly day lately—the calendar still says its spring. And that’s a good thing because I haven’t gotten my fill of spring vegetables yet.
Especially baby artichokes. They’re one of the few produce items that’s not always available year-round, so that much more precious.
If you’ve never cooked baby ‘chokes, don’t be daunted. They take a little work up front, but because they’re small, they cook more quickly than their standard-size brethren. And there’s less work at the table—because with cooked baby artichokes, you can eat the whole thing.
And I do.
By the bowlful.
Here’s how to prep them for cooking.
1. Prepare a bowl of acidulated water.
That’s water with a little lemon juice or vinegar, 2 to 3 tablespoons per quart or so. This is where you’ll keep the prepped artichokes as you work, to help prevent browning. It won’t completely avoid browning, but it’ll help.
2. Snap off the outer leaves.
Working one artichoke at a time, remove the leaves—just bend back one or two at a time and they’ll snap right off—until you’re left with leaves that are at about 3/4 pale yellow (top row of photos above). You’ll end up taking off three or four layers, but when in doubt, remove another. It’s better to have a little less artichoke than a mouthful of tough leaves.
3. Trim and cut.
Use a paring knife to trim the top of the artichoke, removing the 1/4 that’s still green. Trim the stem, cutting off any dark green parts on the bottom and sides to create a stubby cone shape. Finally, depending on how you plan to use it, leave the artichoke whole or cut it into halves, quarters, or slices (bottom row of photos above).
Drop the prepped ‘choke into the acidulated water and repeat with the remaining artichokes.
That’s it. Your artichokes are ready to be drained and then cooked by almost any method you like. You can even slice them thinly and serve them raw, in salads or as a crudités.
One of my new favorite ways to enjoy baby artichokes is in a soup. Here’s the recipe.