Artichokes are among the few vegetables that can stand alone on a plate and look regal. And what used to take 40 to 50 minutes to cook on top of the stove now takes one-quarter of the time or less in the microwave. Yet, for all its elegance, the artichoke still demands to be eaten with the fingers, a process more complicated than its cooking.
Artichokes should be bought when they are firm, unspotted and heavy for their size. The small-to-medium ones will usually have a better flavor. When purchased at its peak, no vegetable packs more tender morsels in every bite than the artichoke.
To microwave artichokes, make sure that you turn them upside down in the cooking dish and cover them with vented plastic wrap. To judge the doneness, look at the color for the first indication--it should be olive green. When the small bottom leaves can be removed with little resistance and a paring knife inserted in the base pierces it easily, the artichoke is done. A short standing time will complete the cooking.
1 to 4 artichokes
1 or 2 lemons, cut in half
Cut off artichoke stems about 1 inch from tops. Pull off few tough bottom leaves, and with scissors, snip off tips of each of outer leaves to flatten top. Rub each artichoke with cut side of lemon half to prevent discoloration.
Pour 1/4 cup water into 8-inch square or round dish. Arrange artichokes on dish, tops down, leaving center open if possible. Cover tightly with lid or plastic wrap, vented on 1 side. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) according to times listed, or until lower leaves can be pulled out and base pierces easily, rotating dish halfway through cooking.
1 artichoke: 4 to 5 minutes
2 artichokes: 5 to 9 minutes
3 artichokes: 8 to 12 minutes
4 artichokes: 9 to 15 minutes
Let stand, covered, 3 minutes. Drain and serve hot or chilled on individual plates with Lemon Butter.
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro, optional
Combine butter, lemon juice and cilantro in small custard cup. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 40 seconds to 1 minute to melt. Makes enough to dip 1 artichoke.
WITH PINE NUTS
4 medium artichokes
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Prepare artichokes following recipe for Steamed Artichokes, using lemon as directed and cooking on HIGH (100% power) 9 to 15 minutes, rotating dish twice. Let stand, covered, 3 minutes. Drain and cool.
Pull out rosy pink center leaves from cooled artichokes. Gently press green leaves (scales) away from center. With small spoon or melon baller, remove hairy chokes.
Combine butter, garlic and onion in 2-quart microwave-proof casserole. Microwave on HIGH 2 to 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in mushrooms. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 2 to 4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Stir in 1/4 cup broth, bread crumbs, nuts, parsley, salt and pepper.
Spoon mixture into center cavities of each artichoke and between outer leaves. Place artichokes, base down, in same cooking dish. Carefully pour remaining 1/4 cup broth around them. Cover tightly and microwave on HIGH 8 minutes or until heated through. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.