Steamed artichoke is one of my favorite foods. It's
not a common one for several reasons. One, it's expensive.
Each artichoke can cost $2.50 to $3.50 or more. Two,
hardly anyone has heard of them, it seems. I don't know
how many times I've had to explain to cashiers what
they are so they could look up the price. Three, they
make you work for very little actual food. Pull off
the leaves one by one, dip the bottom in melted butter, scrape
the little bit of "meat" off with your teeth,
throw the leaf away. Repeat until you're close to the
heart, at which point you scrape the rest of the stuff
away to reveal a shallow bowl-shaped bit of food about
the size of the palm of a child's hand, which you cut
up and dunk in butter. For some people, they just aren't
worth the effort. However, I don't mind doing a bit
of work for my food, and anyone who eats with chopsticks
can deal with food you can't simply shovel into your
mouth. Plus, artichokes with butter are delicious.
I can't stress that enough.
So, here's how you cook 'em. First, buy one artichoke
for each person at the table. The best artichokes are
the conical ones with triangular leaves tipped with
clawlike thorns. Rinse each well by running water down
into it from the top for about a minute. Then cut off
the stem right where it meets the bud. You may want
to clip off the tips of the leaves with the claws, the
way my mother did; I don't bother, myself. Then set
them in a steamer and cook them over medium high heat
for 30 minutes. Check to see if it's done by trying
to pull off a leaf a few layers in with your tongs.
If it's ready, the leaf will come away with a gentle
tug. If it doesn't, let it cook another 10 minutes and
try again. Cooking times vary according to the size
and type of artichoke.
You can use plain melted butter, but I like to add
a few drops of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt. Serve the
in a small dipping dish or a tiny teacup. Also, have
a bowl on hand for the discarded leaves.