The artichokes that we grow at Green String are best enjoyed when they're still pretty small. If an artichoke is smaller than about 3 inches in diameter, chances are it hasn't developed that furry little inedible choke yet -- which means you can skip the normal artichoke procedure and eat it (nearly) whole.
Baby artichokes still take a bit of prep work, but you'll make up for the time when you pop the whole scrumptious bud into your mouth. Yum.
Step one: remove tough outer leaves
The farm nerd in me wants to point out that these "leaves" are really sepals. But that's not important, what's important is that you take off several layers of these -- until you get down to the tender leaves. (Or sepals.) Keep peeling away until they're pale yellow, and only green on the tips.
There's no need to throw the extra leaves out though! I like to boil them for ten minutes or so, drain, pop them in the fridge overnight, and have them with some homemade mayonnaise for a light lunch the next day.
Step two: trim and peel
Lop off the top of the artichoke -- either where it turns green, or if you've got a thorny bud on your hands, cut it so that you remove all the spikes. Next, take a vegetable peeler and get the very outer layer of the stem off; this gets rid of the bitter, silvery-gray layer. Cut off the very bottom of the stem, but leave the rest -- it's the best part!
Step three: cut into lovely little pieces
Quarter the artichoke for quickest cooking. You can also halve it or leave it whole. Notice that there's no choke layer in these babies -- it goes straight from leaves to heart.
Artichokes start browning as soon as you cut them, so it's a good idea to have water with a splash of vinegar or lemon juice ready (acid stops the browning process) BEFORE you start prepping. Unless you're dealing with a whole mountain of artichokes, put some acid in your cooking water and get it up to a simmer before you start cutting -- then as you finish prepping each artichoke, toss it into the pot. The few minutes of cooking between the first and last artichokes won't make too much of a difference.
Step four: cook. Then eat.
Once prepped, baby artichokes are wonderfully versatile. For a simple preparation, boil them in salted water for 10 to 15 minutes if you like them quite soft, or 5 minutes or less if you like them al dente. Then serve with your favorite artichoke fixings -- mayonnaise, butter, olive oil and garlic, or whatever strikes your fancy. I also like to cook them until they're a bit uncooked, then toss them into a thick, creamy sauce (with browned butter and green garlic, or lots of fresh sage) and serve over pasta. You could also dress them up with a tangy marinade and serve them in a salad, or slather them in beer batter and deep fry 'em, for a treat like Fremont Diner's wonderful artichoke fritters.
Got any other suggestions for baby chokes? We'd love to hear them!