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Published: Tuesday, 3/15/2005

Here's how to cook with fresh artichokes

Rinse artichokes well under cold, running water. Trim just the bottom of the artichoke, leaving stem in place. Cut off top 1/3 of the artichoke. Trim tips of leaves with kitchen shears. Cook according to one of the following methods. When done, lift artichokes out with tongs, drain and cool briefly. Press thumbs into center of artichoke and spread leaves slightly. Remove fuzzy center with a spoon. To test for doneness: stab center of artichoke with a skewer to see if the heart is tender or see if a leaf pulls off easily.

To eat, pull off each leaf and dip into your favorite dip. For the heart, cut it into slices or bite-sized pieces. Or stuff whole artichoke with chicken or tuna salad or cut artichoke in half from top to bottom and fill cavity.

To boil: Fill a large saucepan or pot half full of water. Add artichokes, a sliced lemon, a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper and heat to boiling. Cover and simmer over medium heat until a petal pulls out easily, about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size of artichoke.

To steam: Place steaming rack in bottom of large saucepan or pot. Add just enough water to come to bottom of rack. Add artichokes. Cover and steam over simmering water until a petal pulls out easily about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size of artichoke.

To microwave: Pick a microwavable container that's tall enough to hold the artichokes. Follow microwave directions for time based on number of artichokes and temperature level. Place artichokes in microwavable container and add just enough water to make 1/2-inch in bottom of container. Cover and microwave on high until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes depending on size of artichoke. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes before testing for doneness. For two artichokes, add 4 to 6 minutes cooking time.

When microwaving, use plastic wrap, waxed paper, a plate or lid. Covering makes for quicker cooking. Uncover carefully, lifting cover away from you so the steam escapes and doesn't burn you. Include a minute or two of standing time before testing the artichoke for doneness.

Source: Ocean Mist Farms, California

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