I eagerly anticipate this late spring, almost summer season every year. This is partially because Hood strawberries brighten up my farmers market, but mainly because Tillamook County artichokes hit the stands.
Yes, Castroville, California thinks so highly of their artichokes that they have deemed their town “The Artichoke Capital of the World.” Fortunately, our own Tillamook County has that same marine climate—perfect for growing artichokes. I’d venture to say that the artichokes coming out of Tillamook’s Bear Creek Artichokes and DeNoble Farms are every bit as good…if not better.
But hey, we Oregonians like to keep a low profile. We garner pleasure in just getting our hands on some Tillamook artichokes, cooking them up and serving them with a personalized dipping sauce.
In my family, everyone has a special dipping sauce. Whenever I serve artichokes, I somehow transform into a short-order saucier. That’s okay by me. I’ve decided that I’m willing to go the extra mile to keep my kiddos eating up these antioxidant-loaded thistle blossoms.
While there are many ways to cook a whole artichoke—steaming, microwaving, braising, grilling—here is my preferred method:
Using a very sharp knife, cut the stems from your artichokes, and cut about an inch to an inch-and-a-half off the top of your artichokes. (I have no time for cutting the thorn off each individual leaf with a pair of scissors, no matter how neat and trim that might look.) Sprinkle the trimmed tops with kosher salt and lemon pepper.
Place artichokes stem-side-up in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. My pot holds about 4 large artichokes. Fill the artichoke-filled pot until there is an inch to an inch-and-a-half of water in the bottom of the pot. Sometimes I add a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 25 minutes, or until the leaves easily pull off and the stem is tender when pricked with a fork. The exact time will depend on the size of your artichokes.
Drain. Serve warm or at room temperature. Pull the leaves off and dip in your signature sauce.
10 Dip Ideas for the Short-Order Saucier
For best flavor, combine sauce ingredients and let flavors mingle for at least 30 min.
1. The Purist: 1 tablespoon melted butter
2. Kid’s Delight: Equal parts mayonnaise and ketchup
3. A Nod to India: Generous spoonful of mayonnaise. Squeeze of a slice of lemon. Pinch of curry. Sprinkle of lemon pepper.
4. Cheater Aioli: Generous spoonful mayonnaise. A bit of Dijon mustard. A squeeze of lemon. One minced garlic clove. Salt and pepper. Sprinkle of chopped chives.
5. Beyond Butter: Melted butter with a sprinkle of thyme leaves and a squeeze of lemon.
6. The Why Not? Vinaigrette: Olive oil with crushed garlic, white wine, lemon juice, minced basil and salt.
7. A Kick of Heat: Olive oil with lime juice, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, a teaspoon or so of minced chipotle pepper and a “pinch” of adobo sauce. (You could sub the olive oil for mayo.)
8. A Bit Sweet: Olive oil, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, minced shallots, fresh thyme, salt and pepper.
9. Light and Refreshing: Greek yogurt with minced mint leaves and green onion.
10. Italian Chokes: Equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with salt and pepper.