Artichokes are an amazing fresh vegetable and if you’ve only eaten them marinated in a jar, you’ve been missing out on a ton of slightly sweet, slightly nutty succulent flavor. The friends I’ve casually polled (even the foodie friends) say they enjoy the flavor of artichokes but have never personally made them “from scratch” because of the intimidation factor -- artichokes are odd-looking, have been known to fight back with their thorns and no one seems to know just what part of this ancient Mediterranean vegetable can be consumed.
But, I’m here to allay these fears and show you just how easy (and even convenient) it can be to prep and cook fresh artichokes with my recipe for Caesar Slow Cooker Artichokes. So, before the summer sets behind us, you need to get your hands on the season’s last crop of fresh artichokes. While peak season is typically in spring and early summer, most markets still carry a good selection of fresh artichokes into the early fall.
Technically a thistle, the thorny artichoke can easily be tamed for consumption with the right kitchen techniques. The only gear you need is a cutting board, sharp knife, kitchen sears and lemons to prevent oxidation. The “artichoke prep” directions in my crock pot recipe will work for any other dish that uses a whole artichoke, regardless of whether the method is to steam, braise, bake, or grill.
Artichokes don’t really take all that long to cook, maybe about 30 to 45 minutes for most conventional methods – but that can seem like a long time to wait around when rushing to get dinner on the table. Although my recipe takes considerably longer, it’s so much more convenient because you can prep the artichokes ahead of time and then set the timer to simmer low and slow for the three hours leading up to meal time. No worries, you can’t mess it up!
When the artichokes are ready, the vegetable will be soft and tender – the leaves will pull off easily with a gently tug. In lieu of the traditional butter dipping sauce, I’ve opted to stuff between the leaves with fresh Parmesan cheese shavings and crushed croutons followed with a drizzle of Litehouse Food’s Organic Caesar Dressing. To eat your finished artichokes, be bold! Just pull off the outer leaves and gently scrape the flesh from the underside of the petal with your teeth – or scrape with a spoon if you’d prefer to be more dignified. The soft, almost yellow inner leaves and fleshy base are called the “heart” and are edible with exception of the hairy choke. Ewww, I know that sounds gross, but a spoon or melon baller can be deployed to scoop out this undesirable section of the artichoke. Enjoy!