The flower bud from a type of edible thistle, artichokes are a different kind of vegetable- a little earthy and somewhat sweet, they luckily happen to be in season in the early spring.
If you've ever seen them growing in a garden, they're actually quite beautiful (maybe unexpected when you see them for the first time, but still beautiful).
With baby artichokes, you can eat a bit more of the plant (the stem is particularly good, and at least here, there's not much of a stem left on the large artichokes when you see them piled up on a produce display... and if there is any, most people cut it off so that the artichoke sits flat while it steams).
If you feel like taking on a pile of baby artichokes, have at it. It's just you and your knife against a pile a prickly little vegetables.
The prep work may seem a little daunting, most people probably wouldn't want to deal with it.
But they're special and it's worth it.
A freshly prepared artichoke is so different from the canned variety, likewise a baby artichoke is more tender than the large variety.
Baby artichokes work well as a vegetable side or main, maybe chopped and added to a plain risotto, or as an appetizer with a glass of white wine.
Roasted Baby Artichokes with Lemon Vinaigrette
serves 6 or more
24 baby artichokes
8 T (120 ml) olive oil, separated
freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 T (a small handful) minced parsley
Prepare a bowl of acidulated water by filling a large glass or stainless steel bowl with water (maybe a generous 2 qt or 2 L) and juicing two lemons into it. Drop the juiced halves into the water if you would like.
To prep the baby artichokes:
Remove the outer leaves until you come to a layer that is tender-looking and more of a spring green shade (it will probably be several layers down). Cut off the top 1/3 of the leaves. Cut off the dry and/or dark end of the stem, and with a paring knife or vegetable peeler trim the outer layer of the stem and the area at the base of the artichoke leaves.
Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and drop them into the acidulated water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
This step could probably be done a couple hours in advance.
Prepare the lemon vinaigrette by placing the minced garlic, zest of one lemon, and 3 T (45 ml) lemon juice into a bowl. Whisk in 4 T (60 ml) olive oil and season with 1/4 t (2 g) salt and 1/4 t (1 g) pepper. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 F/205 C.
Drain the prepared artichokes and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
Toss the artichokes on a sheet pan along with 4 T (60 ml) olive oil, 1 1/2 t (12 g) kosher salt and 1/2 t (2 g) freshly ground black pepper. Turn all the artichokes so they are cut side up on the pan. Roast the artichokes in the hot oven 20-25 minutes, until tender.
Pour the lemon vinaigrette over the hot, roasted artichokes and gently toss to coat. Sprinkle the artichokes with minced parsley and gently toss to combine.
Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve warm or room temperature.