One of my family's favorite things to cook is also one of the simplest - steamed artichokes with dipping sauce. When it's placed on the table, usually before a meal as an appetizer, it's a feeding frenzy and everyone for his or her self. There have been a couple of times when someone has woken up too late from a nap only to find a few measly scraps left waiting for them. The "you snooze, you lose" saying really rings true in our house, which is dangerous because we also love to nap. Having it as an appetizer really brings us all together in one room before dinner. Even if "together" means elbowing each other out of the away, it always makes the night feel more special.
While there are many ways to eat an artichoke - stuffed, boiled, baked, in dip form a la TGIFridays...my favorite way is steamed. It's easy, delicious and it preserves more of it's nutrients. Artichokes are packed with folate, fiber, vitamin C and K, and antioxidants. In fact, according to WebMD, "they're number 7 on the USDA's top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list." So steaming always wins for me, although I really want to try grilling them this summer!
First, you must choose a fresh Artichoke. Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean, but nearly 100% of 'chokes found in the US are from California. They can now be found year-round, but they are most fresh in the spring (I'm a little late with this post!). The best ones are those with tightly closed leaves/petals, if they are more open that means it's older and less fresh. Some brown spots are totally fine though! An artichoke should keep for a week, unwashed in the fridge. If you see the leaves start to open up, use it immediately.
While this recipe is super simple, it's also elusive. There is a fine line between under cooking and overcooking an artichoke - and I've been guilty of both! When it's undercooked it's too tough to eat and when it's overcooked it's mushy and it loses a lot of its flavor.
Steamed Artichoke with dipping sauce
- 1 artichoke (one large artichoke is enough for 2 or 3 people, unless you are in the Macner household, then you will need one per person to avoid a fight)
- 2 or 3 lemons
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- Wash your artichoke. Put it under running water and let the water go throughout the leaves then turn it upside down and shake it. Do it a couple of times. Sometimes dirt can get trapped under the leaves and you will find it as you peel the layers away.
- Chop off the stem with a sharp knife. Slice off the top of the artichoke and remove the sharp tips of the lower leaves with a scissor. Also, remove the bottom-most leaves. I usually squeeze some lemon over the 'choke at this time. This also helps prevent it from browning, which happens when you slice it and expose it to air. Lately, I've gotten really lazy and haven't been trimming the sharp edges and it doesn't seem to make a difference to me. (I didn't trim or chop off the top of the pictured artichokes.)
- Pour some water into a large pot with a steamer basket so that the basket is just over the boiling water. You can add lemon, garlic or a bay leaf to the water to add flavor as well. Put the artichoke stem down, facing up. Bring the water to a boil and then let it simmer for about 40 minutes. Try not to check on it during this time, it's always my biggest mistake because I get impatient or nervous about overcooking it. After 40 minutes, see if you can peel away one of the bottom leaves. If it pulls away easily, you are done! If not, put the cover back on and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes more.
- Drain the artichoke and when it's cool enough to eat, peel off a leaf and dip it into your sauce of choice. If you are unfamiliar with how to eat an artichoke - dip the bottom, fleshy end into your dip of choice and then scrape the soft part of the inside of the leaf with your teeth and toss the remaining leaf into a bowl to the side. It should be soft enough to come off easily without biting too hard.
The Macner family dipping sauce
- 1 part sour cream
- 1 part mayo
- Juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon mixed in.
Mix all ingredients together and let it chill in the fridge while the artichoke cooks. Adjust to taste.
I like mine with more sour cream and more lemon than my family does - it's all about finding the right mixture for yourself. You can play around with it as well - once I added minced garlic and another time I added capers. Buying this lemon squeezer really upped my sauce game
There are so many other varieties of dips you can pair with your steamed artichoke- Here are ten! I always stick with what feels like home, but maybe I should branch out some more. I want to try them all, but I think I will start with the peanut sriracha sauce.
If you are feeling really lazy, my sister and I used to make what we called "Lazy Man's 'Choke" when we were in college together. We would pour water over the artichoke, wrap it in saran wrap and microwave it for 10 -15 minutes. This recipe seems to really nail this process better than we ever did.