One morning, while working as a chef in Barcelona, Spain, I walked into work and heard what sounded like the snap of rubber against bare skin. As I turned the corner and entered the kitchen I saw all of my fellow chefs putting on surgical gloves. Uh, is this what they meant by European socialized medicine? I sure hoped not.
The sprawling, stainless steel kitchen was scattered with artichokes; alright, at least the artichokes were familiar. In the states, I had eaten artichokes countless times: steamed artichokes with drawn butter; grilled artichokes with drawn butter, poached artichokes with drawn butter. Oh the delicious monotony!?! I grew bored with the artichoke. I had really only seen them put to use as an elegant way to consume drawn butter.
My Michelin-starred, rubber-gloved colleagues changed the way I looked at the artichoke. They explained that the surgical gloves provided protection from the oxidation of the artichoke (artichokes turn black when phenolic compounds are combined with enzymes and exposed to oxygen). If you handle the artichokes without rubber gloves, they turn your hands black for days!
I learned that the artichoke could be taken apart and cooked in many different ways -- slice the cleaned bottoms for chips, dice the stem and make vinaigrette with chopped rosemary, stuff hollowed hearts with wild rice and root vegetables! I had discovered an entirely new ingredient.
This slideshow explains what I learned and how to put these new techniques to use. Please share your stories and pictures of this "tender-hearted" vegetable.