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ARTICHOKE SOUP
Show 21.07
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Buying & Storing Artichokes

When buying artichokes, look for a vibrant color and a vegetable that is tightly closed.    An artichoke that is starting to open is not that fresh.  The youngest artichokes tend to be the most tender and tasty. It is easy to select a young artichoke in the supermarket if you keep in mind that it is simply an overgrown flower.  Another good rule of thumb, as it is with many fruits and vegetables, is to look for one that feels heavy for its size.

To store artichokes, first wash in cold water, then place them, still wet, in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. They should keep for at least a week.

Preparing for Cooking

Wash artichokes under cold running water.

Pull off lower petals which are small or discolored.

Remove the sharp outer top leaves by cutting about a quarter of the artichoke from the top -- a serrated knife works well.   I like the look of clipped petals, so I cut about ¼ inch off the petals, removing the pointy thorn.

Trim the base so that your artichoke can stand up straight.   Trimmed artichoke stems are edible.  Cut the brown end about ½ inch.  Peel fibrous outer layer to reach tender green of stem.  The stem may be steamed whole with the artichoke, cut into rounds or julienne for salads or pastas.

Plunge into acidified water to preserve color. (One tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice per quart of water.)

Place artichoke in steamer, tips up.  Fill pan with about two inches of salted water (you can also add a little lemon juice to the water if you like).  Check the water levels often, as it's easy to forget about and let boil dry. 

Cover pot and steam artichokes for about 30 to 40 minutes (depending on size), or until bottoms of the artichoke are tender.  Cut into base of each artichoke to check that it is soft, and make sure inside leaves can be pulled out easily. 

Drain artichokes upside down on paper towel.

Serve with melted butter (I like to add a little lemon juice and garlic to mine), a mayonnaise style dressing or even a hollandaise sauce.

Creamy Artichoke Soup
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
5 large artichokes hearts (quartered)
4 Tbsp butter
1 medium size leek, white-and-light green part, sliced and rinsed
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped shallots
5 oz of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp thyme
2 sprigs of parsley
1/2 cup of cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish

METHOD
Cook the artichokes (see separate instructions).

With a small spoon, remove the thistle choke part and discard. Remove the leaves from the artichoke heart and reserve for eating later, if desired. Cut or peel away the tough outside skin of the stems and discard. 

In a large pot, melt half the butter and cook the leek, garlic, and shallots on medium heat until tender but not brown.

Add the artichoke hearts, potatoes, stock, and herbs.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and continue to simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Purée the soup using either a handheld immersion blender or in a blender in batches.  You can leave the soup a little chunky if you like it that way.

Return soup to pot.  Stir in the remaining butter and the cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls.  If desired, serve with a dollop of sour cream on top and a sprinkling of chives.

Helena Spensatelli
Community Cook