Italians love artichokes and I know why! They’re healthy, surprisingly sweet, and easy to prepare at home. They pair well with my favorite flavors and ingredients of Italy like lemons, garlic, olive oil, and fresh herbs like mint. Artichokes are great in salads, risotto, pastas and even open-faced sandwiches–try one with a spread of fresh cream cheese and herbs!
I often see folks with looks of amazement and curiosity when they see a bountiful display of baby artichokes at Bi-Rite Market. They’re beautiful to look at, but some can be confounded about just how to approach enjoying them. Next time you find yourself pondering how to prepare and eat an artichoke, let us know and we’ll be happy to introduce you to this amazing flowering thistle with an incredible taste. They’re delicious and ready to eat raw, but it seems like sometimes the biggest obstacle to enjoying artichokes is knowing how to peel and cut them properly. This can actually be done in a few simple steps; let me take you through it.
You can also easily shave the artichoke into smaller pieces. If you do this over a salad with arugula or radicchio, the raw bits of artichoke will make a great topping that you can mix right into the salad as you would with shaved fennel. You’ll find that the baby artichoke tastes slightly bitter at first, but its sugars will quickly lead to a finish with a surprising sweetness.
Italy grows more than ten times the quantity of artichokes than we grow here in the United States. California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop, and about 80% of that is grown in Monterey County, close to our Markets. Artichokes are generally green but many of my favorite farmers, like Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero, CA, grow purple chokes which have a stronger flavor–wilder with a more pronounced bitterness.
After I prep and trim up some baby artichokes, my favorite way to enjoy is to roast them in the oven, which really concentrates the flavor. Half the trimmed chokes and toss them with olive oil, chopped garlic, and herbs. Roast in a 400° F oven until tender and golden. Once they come out of the oven, season with a nice pinch of Maldon Sea Salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a bit more olive oil. Enjoy!