Cathie Campbell

The good kind of choke

There are many ways to cook artichokes, but my favorite one is to steam or simmer them. All I do is simmer them in water about halfway up, covered, so they actually end up steaming as well as simmering. To prepare them, I cut off about an inch from the top, then I cut off the stems because I don't like them (plus the chokes stand up better without stems).

After that I take a pair of vegetable shears or scissors and cut off the top of the outer leaves. Sometimes they are prickly on the top. I place them in the pot with water, then squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the tops, as well as a few drizzles of olive oil. Cook about 45 minutes or until the centers are tender. Poke with a knife or fork to test. I drain them upside down so they won't be too watery on each person’s plate.

Eat them as is or dip each leaf (and the heart) in mayonnaise or other type of dip or dressing. Here are a few artichoke recipes for you to browse.

Grilled garlic artichokes

2 large artichokes

1 lemon, quartered

3/4 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (about half a teaspoon or less)

1. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice from one lemon wedge into the water. Trim the tops from the artichokes, then cut in half lengthwise, and place halves into the bowl of lemon water to prevent them from turning brown.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat.

3. Add artichokes to boiling water, and cook for about 15 minutes. Drain. Squeeze the remaining lemon wedges into a medium bowl. Stir in the olive oil and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. 4. Brush the artichokes with a coating of the garlic dip, and place them on the preheated grill. Grill the artichokes for 5 to 10 minutes, basting with dip and turning frequently, until the tips are a little charred. Serve immediately with the remaining dip. Makes 4 servings.

Artichoke risotto

If you wish, you can cook fresh chokes and scrape off enough of the tender flesh to equal the amount found in a can. Also, this has an unusual ingredient, avocado oil.

8 jumbo artichokes

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 yellow bell pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 shallots, chopped

1 sprig marjoram

1 sprig lemon thyme (or regular thyme)

1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 cups Arborio rice

2 tablespoons butter, divided

3 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium vegetable broth, warmed for 2 minutes in the microwave

1 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 chunk (5-oz.) Cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons avocado oil

1. Zest the lemon and gather about 1 teaspoon. Save juice. Set aside. To roast the bell pepper, stem, wash and pat dry, then brush with oil. Place a grill on your stove (I use a broiler, but watch carefully) and char all the skin of the pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 5 to 10 minutes until you can handle it without discomfort. Clean the pepper using a knife; the skin will come right off. Seed it and chop the flesh.

2. Coarsely chop artichoke hearts and set aside. Slice part of the Cheddar into 8 thin slices and cut the rest into small chunks; set aside.

3. In a large deep pan, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots and cook until golden. Add the artichoke pieces to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chili flakes. Cook until each side is brown (for about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the yellow pepper, lemon juice and sugar. Toss well and transfer the vegetable mixture to a plate.

4. In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the minced garlic clove and cook until very light golden. Add the sprig of lemon thyme, marjoram and the Arborio rice. Make sure that each grain is coated with butter. Stir until light translucent. Add 1 can of warm broth. Stir constantly.

5. After bringing the liquid to a boil, add the chunks of Cheddar cheese and lower the heat to medium-low for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of flat-leaf parsley. (You can also use the stems, because that's where the flavor is strongest.) Season with salt and pepper. Check the liquid and periodically add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of broth (and water when all the broth is used) when all the previous liquid is absorbed. Let simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes.

When the rice is almost cooked, add the vegetable mixture. Check the seasoning and add salt (if necessary) and pepper. Add the rest of the butter. Stir well. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme and marjoram.

6. For the artichokes, place a large bowl filled with water in the sink. Swirl each artichoke upside down in the water. Make sure there is no dirt trapped between the leaves. Pull off any of the tough outer leaves near the base. Cut the stems and trim the tops a little, using a sharp knife.

7. Place the artichokes in a very large pot. Cover with 1 quart of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 30 to 35 minutes until the bottoms of the artichokes are tender. A good way to check is to poke the choke with a paring knife.

8. Remove the artichokes from the pot and let stand for about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the artichokes thoroughly and let them cool a little (do not rinse and let the liquid evaporate). Once the artichokes are cool enough to handle and have dried thoroughly, remove the center leaves. Using a large spoon, scoop out and discard the lower portions (inedible part) until you reach the heart.

9. Spoon the artichoke risotto into each artichoke. Top with 1/2 of a slice of Cheddar and sprinkle with Parmesan. Place the filled artichokes on a baking pan, previously greased with oil. Broil in the oven, for about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven. Drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with parsley. Makes 8 servings.

Braised baby artichokes

1 lemon, halved

1 1/4 pounds baby artichokes

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Fill a large bowl with water, and juice lemon into water. Reserve lemon halves. Remove tough outer leaves of artichokes. Trim pointy tops and stems, rubbing artichokes with lemon halves and then transferring them to the lemon water as you work to prevent discoloration. Cut larger baby artichokes in half lengthwise if desired.

2. Drain artichokes, and transfer to a large skillet along with stock, wine and oil. Set over medium-high heat, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender and golden and liquid has cooked away, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Stuffed artichokes

1 lemon, cut in half

6 whole artichokes

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Squeeze the lemon halves into a large bowl and fill the bowl with cold water. Trim the bottom off each artichoke. Trim off the tough outer leaves. Snip the thorny tips off the top leaves. As each one is completed, place it in the lemon water to prevent it from discoloring.

2. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic and parsley and season to taste with pepper. Pull each leaf open slightly from each artichoke and stuff a little filling into the opening. Place the artichokes snugly side by side in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1 inch of water to the pot. Cover and bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and steam until the bottoms of the artichokes are tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Serve each artichoke hot, on an individual plate. Makes 6 servings.