Most of the time, you can’t go wrong with a simple artichoke that’s steamed and served with a buttery dipping sauce. But for people like my husband, who only likes artichoke with a nice, tangy aioli (he pretty much only eats artichoke for the aioli, using the leaf merely as a vessel to transport the dip), this is a good way to add pizzazz to a plain ol’ artichoke when you’re bored with aioli.
It starts with a fresh artichoke… perhaps harvested from your garden, and if you do, leave a few inches of stem on the bud as the stem is one of my favorite parts to eat!
Then you add pesto. Fresh, garlicky pesto… maybe a nasturtium pesto if your
weeds crop is flourishing right now, which will give your artichoke a slightly spicy kick, or just a traditional basil pesto for a sweeter flavor. You can make pesto out of darn near everything (have you tried arugula? Cilantro-mint?) and the recipe is always the same. Just substitute the leaves for the greens of your choice, and play around with different nuts or cheeses (pine nuts and Parmesan are the old school favorites, but cashews, almonds, Asiago, and pecorino are all delicious). You add butter at this stage too, and we all know that butter makes everything better.
Top all of that with Italian-seasoned bread crumbs, stuff them in between the artichoke leaves, and you’ve got an artichoke that even non-artichoke eaters will eat. Rejoice!
Steamed Artichoke With Pesto Crumb
Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
Wash your artichokes thoroughly. (If your buds have started to open, watch for earwigs and other things that like to crawl into the crevices… even though it is extra protein, heh.)
Chop the top off your artichoke. An inch or two works.
Use kitchen shears to snip the tips off the remaining leaves. This step isn’t totally necessary, but is quite helpful to keep you (or your hungry guests) from stabbing yourselves on the thorns.
Pull and discard any tough outer leaves from the bottom of the bud, and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine artichoke ready to cook!
I steam my artichokes in a deep lobster pot fitted with a steamer basket, but you can also use a colander as your “basket” and simply place a lid over it. Fill the pot with an inch or two of water, just enough so the water line is still below the basket.
I like to add a bay leaf and a couple of lemon slices to the water for a more fragrant steam. It’s optional, but smells delicious and tastes wonderful.
Steam the artichokes for about 25 minutes, or until a leaf pulls out easily and you can pierce the stem with a fork. (Jumbo artichokes may need up to 45 minutes to fully steam.)
While you wait, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. I never measure this part, but eyeball about half the amount of butter as there is pesto. So if you melt 3 tablespoons of butter, you can add 6 tablespoons of pesto… just enough to make a thin, drizzly consistency.
When your artichokes are done, remove them from the pot and let them cool slightly. Cut off the stems, but save them to serve alongside the artichoke buds. (I’ve always found my stems to be very tender like the heart, but if yours is a bit fibrous — because of a more mature stem — simply peel the skin before you eat, the way you might peel a broccoli stem.)
Use your fingers to pry the leaves apart and make room for the stuffing.
Pour the pesto-butter sauce over your artichokes and into the crevices. Pour liberally, I say!
Shake a handful of bread crumbs over all that deliciousness. Add some more of that pesto-butter stuff if you want. Let it all sink into the leaves and serve it up!