The artichoke is the queen of all vegetables (even though it is not a vegetable at all, but that is besides the point). With petals gallantly arranged like a crown, artichokes are limited in number at the store, and therefore we all save them for special occasions. Some might say this is because artichokes are too large to eat by one's self, which I can attest too, because I often try (and succeed,) and then feel quite a bit too full afterwards. I never learn though--how could I? Artichokes are a temptress in their own right.
I learned my love of artichokes from my mom, who is from California, where artichokes actually grow. I can only imagine the superiority of an artichoke freshly plucked and directly steamed. Despite the fact that any artichoke I can find has been crated, freighted, and stored, I still buy them, at least a few each spring. I usually dip the leaves, one at a time, in butter with a little lemon juice, until I get to the center when the leaves and too small to bother with, and then I secure 4 or 5 leaves all at once, pulling them off together, and dip them in the butter as one. When the small leaves are gone and all that remains are a few transparent leaflets, I get impatient and scrape away the choke with a knife or a spoon. I slice the heart into quarters, and lap up the remaining sauce. Even the stem is eaten, and without hesitation.
This year I discovered something new entirely: adding mint and garlic to the sauce. This discovery was almost a mistake--we had leftover mint pesto that was begging for use. I stirred it into my lemon-butter and my heart melted. Artichokes, which I already loved so dearly, were new again. I would go to the store the very next day and buy another bundle of these vegetable queens.
Serves: 4 | Total Active Time:
- 2 whole, fresh artichokes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 ounce mint
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Salt & Pepper
- Prepare the artichokes: using a sharp knife, cut off the top-most part of the petals, removing the sharp spikes at the tips of the petals. Use scissors to remove the sharp bits of any of the short, outer petals that can not be cut off with a knife.
- Steam the artichokes: pour 1 inch of water in a large pot, and fit it with a steam basket. Place artichokes in the steam basket and steam for 30-40 minutes, until a petal can easily be plucked and is tender when you try to eat it. Optional: The cooking process can be greatly sped up by using a pressure cooker. Simple put the water and steam basket in the pot of your pressure cooker (or Instant Pot) and set the timer for 12 minutes on the pot has pressurized.
- While the artichokes cook, prepare the sauce: Place the garlic and pine nuts in the small bowl of a food processor, if you have one (if your food processor only has a large bowl that is fine — you will just need to scrape the sides a bit more to ensure everything gets minced well). Pulse the food processor until the nuts and garlic are ground into a meal. Add the mint, lemon, and butter and pulse again until the mint is chopped fine and the butter and lemon juice is emulsified. If the butter begins to harden that is fine — simple reheat for 15 seconds at a time in the microwave, or over very low heat in a small sauce pan. Over heating will cause the mint to oxidize, which changes the look of the sauce more than the flavor.
- Serve the sauce in small dipping bowls alongside the artichokes.