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Seasonal pantry: Artichokes abundant at Sonoma County markets

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It’s a great year for artichokes. For the past several weeks, Green Globe artichokes have been abundant, delicious and inexpensive.

Not that long ago, it was hard to find them, as supermarkets were stocked with other varieties, modern hybrids without thorns. These artichokes are similar to seedless watermelons, which are bred not for flavor but for lack of seeds.

Thornless artichokes have less flesh, less flavor and never really become tender; they go from undercooked to mushy so quickly that it is almost impossible to cook them perfectly.

Now Green Globes are back, and they are glorious.

It is important to remember how to cook these traditional artichokes. First, do not overcook them. The best way to tell when an artichoke is done is to test it frequently after the first 20 minutes of cooking. Use tongs to take it from its pot and turn it upside down on a work surface. Insert a bamboo skewer through the stem end, pushing it into the heart. If it goes in with a bit of resistance, your artichoke is perfect. If you have to push hard, it needs another 5 minutes. If it goes in with no resistance at all, it’s overcooked.

When you overcook artichokes, you can use them to make a delicious soup, but if you were planning on artichokes for dinner, it will be an inconvenience.

For recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, including artichoke risotto, stuffed artichokes and artichoke-green olive tapenade, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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It is best to boil thornless artichokes. With Green Globe, boiling and steaming work equally well.

Simple Boiled Artichokes

Makes 6 servings

6 large artichokes, preferably Green Globe

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons salt

— Condiments of choice (see below)

Set each artichoke on its side on a work surface and hold it with your less dominant hand. Use a sharp knife to cut off about ½-inch of the artichoke’s tip, so that the interior leaves are revealed. (You also can use kitchen shears or scissors to snip off the tips of the other leaves.) Cut the stem so that it is about ¼ inch long. Set the artichokes upright and drizzle ½ teaspoon of olive oil into the center of each one.

Fill a large pot two-thirds full with water, add the salt and artichokes, and set over high heat. The artichokes will rise to the surface so you’ll need to weight them with a heatproof plate, a lid that fits inside the pot or a strainer basket. Set a ½-pint) Mason jar on top if more weight is necessary to submerge the artichokes.

When the water boils, reduce the heat to medium so that the boiling is gentle. After 20 minutes, use tongs to remove one of the artichokes from the cooking water. Push a bamboo skewer through the stem end into the artichoke’s heart.

If it slips in with just a bit of resistance, the artichoke is done. If not, continue to cook, testing every 5 minutes or so. When the artichokes are cooked, transfer them to a strainer, drain thoroughly and cool until the leaves are easy to handle.

Use both hands to spread out artichoke leaves like a blossom. Use fingers of one hand to pull the smallest leaves from the heart and then use a spoon with a thin tip to scrape out the choke.

Enjoy the artichokes right away with condiments of choice, chill and serve cold, or use in another recipe.

Suggested Condiments

— Butter, melted, with 2 cloves of minced garlic

— Meyer lemon olive oil, with flake salt alongside

— Lemon vinaigrette

— Mayonnaise mixed with a bit of fresh lemon juice and salt

— Mayonnaise mixed with a bit of mustard

— Remoulade sauce

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A benefit of steaming is that it intensifies flavors, making it an ideal technique when you want to add garlic and lemon.

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon and Garlic

Serves 4

4 large Green Globe artichokes

6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

— Grated zest of 1 lemon

— Kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

2/3 cup Meyer lemon olive oil, such as DaVero or O, plus more as needed

— Juice of 2 lemons

— Black pepper in a mill

Set each artichoke on its side on a work surface and use a sharp knife to cut off about ½-inch of the artichoke’s tip so that the interior leaves are revealed. Cut the stem so that it is about ¼-inch long.

Set the artichokes upright and tuck slices of garlic here and there in each one, pushing them down into the artichoke’s interior. Divide the lemon zest among the artichokes, placing it in the center of each one. Sprinkle a little salt on top of the lemon zest and drizzle a little olive oil over it.

Put about 2 inches of water into the bottom half of a steamer. Set the steamer basket on the bottom half, add the artichokes and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Test for tenderness and if not yet ready, cook another 5 minutes and test again. Continue until the artichokes are just done. Do not overcook them.

Remove from the heat and set on individual plates.

While the artichokes cook, put Meyer lemon olive oil into a bowl, add the lemon juice, several pinches of salt and a few turns of black pepper. Stir well and taste quickly, before the mixture separates. Adjust as needed for acid and salt balance.

Provide each guest with a small dipping bowl of sauce and enjoy right away.

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Michele Anna Jordan is author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com or visit her blog at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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