I like to buy medium artichokes. Behemoth artichokes are usually too much for one person to eat, and they can cook unevenly, with the outer leaves soft before the hearts are done. For braising, small artichokes are best.
Artichokes darken when they are cooked, so I don't see the point in rubbing them with a cut lemon or putting them in a bath of ice water with a squeezed lemon as is often recommended. But there is no harm in it either, so the choice is up to you. Avoid cooking artichokes in cast-iron or aluminum pots, which can react with the artichokes and discolor them.
TO PREPARE WHOLE ARTICHOKES
With a serrated knife or very sharp chef's knife, trim off the top 3/4 to 1 inch of the artichoke leaves. With scissors, trim the pointed tops off the remaining leaves. Cut off the stems so that the artichokes can stand upright. With a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife, remove the tough outer skin of the stems and set the stems aside. The stems can be chopped and added to stuffings, or just steamed along with the artichokes. Bend back and snap off the small leaves around the base and one or two rows of darker green leaves all around the artichoke.
Gently spread the leaves open. Rinse well in cool water. If removing the choke, before rinsing, use a small knife with a rounded tip to scrape out the fuzzy leaves in the center.
TO PREPARE ARTICHOKE HEARTS
With a serrated knife or very sharp chef's knife, cut off the top 3/4 to 1 inch of the artichoke leaves. With scissors, trim the pointed tops off the remaining leaves. Rinse the artichokes under cold water, spreading the leaves open. Bend back and snap off all of the dark green leaves until you reach the pale yellowish cone of tender leaves at the center of the artichoke. With a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife, peel off the tough outer skin around the base and stems. Leave the stems attached to the base. Trim off the ends of the stems. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and scoop out the fuzzy chokes. Cut the artichokes into quarters, wedges, or lengthwise slices according to the recipe.
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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