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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Garlic Caper Steamed Artichokes with Herbed Mayonnaise


Artichokes are a flowering thistle plant that is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. I took the picture to the right in Tuscany of an artichoke in full bloom. Beautiful, right? But now artichokes are grown in the US as well. At this time of year, these lovely little vegetables can be found in virtually every produce market in NYC for a terrific price.

Now, I must admit, artichokes are not local to the Northeast (
mostly all artichokes grown in the US are grown in California), but they are in season and certainly are delicious. Plus, they stay quite fresh for up to two weeks after being harvested. When picking out artichokes, look for artichokes that feel heavy for their size, have tight leaves and have very little or no brown spots on them. If they are turning brown and the leaves are opening up, they are getting old.

Artichokes can be prepared in a variety of ways, but one of the most classic and simple preparations is steamed. Steamed artichokes with mayo was a staple spring side dish in my house growing up. My sister and I loved scraping off the yummy meat from the leaves and whittling it down to that scrumptious heart. This slightly more "grown-up" version of the recipe packs a little more flavor and pizazz with the addition of capers and fresh herbs.

To note, artichokes oxidize and turn brown almost immediately after being trimmed or cut, so if you don't begin cooking the artichokes right after preparing them, squeeze some lemon juice on them or place them in a bowl of water with lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice will help prevent the artichokes from turning brown.

Garlic Caper Steamed Artichokes with Herbed Mayonnaise

4 artichokes
1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons capers, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil

For Herbed Mayonnaise:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup minced herbs (parsley and/or dill)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Cut off top third of artichokes and trim the stem to about 1 1/2 inches. Peel the outer layer of the stem with a vegetable peeler and remove the small leaves at the base of the artichoke. Gently pull apart the layers of the leaves and stuff with capers and garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Place a steaming rack in a large pot, add enough water to come just to the bottom of the rack, and bring water to a boil. Place the artichokes on the steaming rack, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the base is tender when pierced with a sharp knife (about 45 minutes). Transfer to a plate.

Combine the mayonnaise with the shallot, herbs and lemon zest.

To serve and eat, dip leaves of artichoke in herbed mayonnaise and scrape off "meat" with your teeth. The artichoke heart and stem are completely edible and delicious, just make sure to remove the fuzzy part from the heart and discard that.

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