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The Perfect Steamed Artichoke with Lemon Aioli

I’ve never found an artichoke home-preparation that I thought was perfect…until now.  I usually fulfill my love of artichokes at fine dining restaurants (Third and Hollywood, Columbus folks???) where they are often grilled and cooked to perfection. The way a perfectly prepared artichoke can melt in your mouth is one of life’s great joys (to me at least).  That such a tough, ugly, prehistoric looking vegetable can turn into a silky, rich, flavorful eating experience is a wonder!  I think it’s fun to serve an artichoke as an appetizer when you are having a few close friends or family over for dinner.  It’s nice because it takes people awhile to eat and enjoy it and this gives the cook a little extra time to prep the rest of the meal.  I’ve tried steaming artichokes a few different ways but I am convinced that this preparation yielded the best results.  The recipe comes from an awesome food and health website which I have recently discovered called Summer Tomato.  This recipe calls for the artichoke to steam for a good 40 minutes so get started on it early if you are serving it as an appetizer.  It’s so easy though….all you really have to do is prep the artichoke, wait for it to steam (turning it over once at 20 minutes) and mix together a quick dip.  We had some friends over the other day for our annual fish fry and I prepared two artichokes for us to munch on while my husband fried up the fish.  We all agreed that this preparation was a winner.  I added my friend’s Spicy Mustard Dip below as another option to the Lemon Aioli — her husband assures me it’s legit!

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The Perfect Steamed Artichoke with Lemon Aioli (1 artichoke serves 4 as Appetizer)

Ingredients:

1 large artichoke (choose one with the leaves packed as tightly as possible for ultimate freshness)

1 lemon (1/2 for Artichoke, 1/2 for Aioli)

olive oil

coarse sea or kosher salt

fresh chopped parsley

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp minced garlic

salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions:

STEAMED ARTICHOKE:  With a sharp knife, cut off the top third of the artichoke.  Peel off the smallest bottom leaves and use scissors to trip the sharp thorn tips off of remaining leaves.  Cut the stem off close to the bulb (make a straight cut so artichoke can easily sit upright).

Fill a deep stock pot with 1/2 inch water and bring to a boil.  Place the cleaned artichoke face down in the water and reduce to simmer.  Cover with lid and simmer for 20 minutes (do not lift the lid at this point).  After 20 minutes, use tongs to turn the artichoke so it sits upright.  Gently drizzle olive oil over the artichoke making sure it drips between the leaves and into the heart.  Sprinkle generously with salt.  Add another 1/2-1 cup water so the depth is back to 1/2 inch.  Cover again and simmer for 20 more minutes.  After 20 minutes, use tongs to try to remove an outer leaf.  If it pulls off easily, it is ready.  If the leaf doesn’t tear off easily, simmer for 5 more minutes.  Remove artichoke and set on a serving plate.  Squeeze 1/2 of a lemon (and a little lemon zest of you choose) over the leaves and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil ad a sprinkle of salt.  Serve immediately with Lemon Aioli.

LEMON AIOLI:  In small or medium bowl combine mayonnaise, juice and zest of 1/2 of one lemon, minced garlic and kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and fresh chopped parsley (optional).  Serve along side artichoke.

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SPICY MUSTARD/WORCESTERSHIRE DIP:  Another option is this dip my friend Liz uses for her steamed artichokes.  Combine 2 Tbsp mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp brown/spicy mustard, 3-5 shakes of Worcestershire saucerand a couple shakes of dried tarragon to taste.

Recipe adapted from Summer Tomato