I’ll admit it: I’m afraid of artichokes. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I lovelovelove to eat them. And I love the way they look—I even use an image of one on my business cards. I’ve just never been able to work up the courage to actually buy a fresh artichoke. They’re so…sharp. And forbidding. And I never felt certain I could tell a good one from a bad one. All this translated into many years of optimistically clipping recipes (I have at least a dozen) and articles about their preparation (another half-dozen), but never making a purchase.
Don’t ask what got into me, but I was placing an order from Fresh Direct the other day, and they had baby artichokes available. I’ve always liked the idea of the small ones—they’re cute, and since they’re not fully grown they don’t have that thorny choke to deal with. They struck me as manageable, somehow. But best of all, they’re the main ingredient in one of my favorite salads, a simple affair featuring thinly sliced baby artichokes, shaved parmesan cheese, lemons, oil, and maybe some fresh herbs. Whenever I see any variation of that salad on a menu, I am compelled to order and devour it, simply because I’ve been so reluctant to attempt it on my own. But with the click of a mouse, I added ten baby artichokes to my virtual shopping cart—the beauty of buying them online is that somebody else has to select them for me, so if they’re bad I can throw a fit and get a refund.
The order arrived today. The picture above is the result. It wasn’t too bad, preparing them—a bit time consuming, but no worse than mincing a lot of garlic or cleaning and slicing mushrooms. I sliced them a little thicker than I probably should have, though, and I may not have peeled away enough of the tough outer leaves—some mouthfuls were a little tough, and there was a strong flavor I didn’t particularly enjoy. But in some mouthfuls the taste I expected was there, grassy and bright, with the smooth salty cheese cutting through the purely vegetal. And now that my artichoke virginity is gone, who knows what I’ll try next. Roasting? Braising? Steaming the giant ones, to pluck and eat leaf by leaf?
Weight Watchers readers: a serving is 4 points, I suppose because of the cheese.
Artichoke and Parmesan Salad
10 baby artichokes
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh herb of your choice [I only had thyme in the house, so that’s what I used]
Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler to make 1/3 cup
Salt & pepper to taste
First, prepare the artichokes:
Snap off the tough outer leaves until the soft, pale yellow inside is exposed [I recommend going an extra layer beyond where you think is enough—as I said, mine was a little tough]. Using a paring knife, cut off the black end of the stem (leave as much as possible) and peel away the fibrous outer layer—the idea is to have only fresh pale green and yellow showing. Now, using a large knife, cut off and discard the spiny top third of the artichoke, then slice the artichoke lengthwise, as thinly as you can. As you slice each one, place in a large bowl and toss with a drizzle of lemon juice to keep it from discoloring.
Once all the artichokes are sliced, add the remaining ingredients, toss, and serve.