Artichokes are Mediterranean plants in the thistle family. They appear in the cuisine of many Mediterranean nations, and are also quite delicious on their own. There are a number of ways to cook artichokes, depending on personal taste and how the artichokes are going to be eaten. In all instances, you want to select firm artichokes with no sign of wilting or sliminess, and the leaves should be tightly clustered around the central core. They can be stored under refrigeration for around three or four days, but after that you should cook artichokes, even if you do not intend to eat them right away.
The easiest way to cook artichokes is steaming or boiling. In both instances, the top of the artichoke should be trimmed with a sharp knife, and the base of the stem should be removed. To cook artichokes in a steamer, place a small amount of water in the bottom of the steamer, and then place the artichokes inside. Steam them for approximately 40 minutes, or until the leaves can easily be pulled away. To boil artichokes, use a deep saucepan with approximately three inches (8 centimeters) of water. You can add olive oil, lemon juice, or other seasonings to the water. Place the trimmed artichokes inside, top up, and boil until the stem is soft. When you cook artichokes by boiling, remember to drain them upside down before eating so that they will not be watery.
Artichokes can also be roasted. A number of recipes call for roasted or stuffed artichokes. To prepare artichokes for roasting, trim the top and bottom, and scoop out the innards of the artichoke. Stuff the artichokes with the desired ingredients, and bake them in a roasting pan with a shallow layer of water. You can also cut artichokes in half and scoop out the insides for roasting. Baby artichokes, artichokes which have not yet developed hard spiky leaves, can be roasted and eaten whole, as long as the tops are trimmed off.
Grilled artichokes are another popular preparation. To cook artichokes on the grill, start by trimming them and steaming them lightly, for around 35 minutes. Then, cut the artichokes in half lengthwise so that you can remove the inedible innards. Marinate the artichokes, preferably overnight, and then place them on the grill, turning them so that both sides turn golden brown and basting to prevent them from burning. When you cook artichokes on the grill, you can try wrapping them in bacon or glazing them with maple syrup, honey, or a sugar marinade for a caramelized treat.
The numerous ways to cook artichokes leave a great deal of flexibility in serving them. A wide range of sauces and dips can be made to accompany artichokes, or they can be incorporated into other dishes such as quiche or casserole. Artichokes can also be served hot or cold, and make a convenient midday snack.