“Ahhh. the KING of vegetables!” My first chef’s exclamation every time a new case of artichokes appeared in the kitchen. Everyone on staff knew it, and took to applying it to just about everything…veg in nature or not.
And while he had absolutely zero people skills, he knew his way around vegetables, and the artichoke was right at the top of his list. Simply prepared, steamed in water enhanced with celery leaves, and a smashed garlic clove or two, he’d yank them from his steaming pot and pull one of the leaves out of the center. If it gave with just a trace of resistance, he’d declare it “finis” and ready to be served.
Fresh artichokes will be heavy in the hand, the leaves tightly closed against each other. To prepare, trim off all but an inch or so of the stem (some markets already do this, some don’t), then, using a sharp paring knife, trim off the tough outer skin on the stem, as shown in the photo.
Next, pull off the bottom layer or two of leaves…these are usually too tough to eat. Then, using your kitchen shears, cut off the very tip, and the wicked little thorn that lives there, from each of the leaves, as shown.
To steam, put several inches of fresh water into a good size pasta pot. Add several broken leafy center stalks of celery and 2-3 crushed cloves of garlic to the water as aromatics. Drop in your steamer basket, add the ‘chokes, cover, bring it to a full boil, and keep it there, adding water as needed.
The size of the artichokes will determine the cook time; those in the photo took about twenty minutes. When a leaf pulls out from the equator of the ‘choke easily, it’s ready to eat.
Pull off a leaf, dip it in some melted butter (I like to add some lemon pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar to mine) and scrap off the delicate insides with your teeth. Repeat.
When you’ve eaten them all, and you’re down to the bottom of the artichoke with its dark, delicate purple leaves, grab your paring knife again. Insert the knife at an angle along the rim down to the center, and go all the way around…you want to remove the actual choke, including all the inedible fuzz, in as few pieces as possible. With that out of the way, cut up the remaining pieces and, carefully guarding them from your friends who will try to steal them when you’re not looking, enjoy every last rich, creamy, butter-covered heavenly bite.
And why exactly are artichokes the diabetic’s best friend? Because, while an artichoke and 8 grams of carbs, it has 10 grams of fiber. The world actually owes you two carbs.
Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef specializing in diabetic menus, living and working n Phoenix, AZ. (c) All Rights Reserves, 2013.