Today's tip

Springtime is the beast season for artichokes.

Artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables. People shy away from cooking with them because of the seemingly laborious process for cleaning and prepping them, but I love their taste, their look and versatility. They can be stuffed, baked, fried whole, thinly sliced for a salad, or used in a pasta sauce or grand risotto. The soft inner heart part is the prized section of the artichoke that we eat.

Springtime is the beast season for artichokes, usually around April and May. Today, Italy is the top country in artichoke production in the world. Rome is the Italian capital of artichoke eating and every single restaurant has this vegetable prepared every way–braised, fried, sauteed…

When buying artichokes, they should be firm, almost squeaky when pressed, and vibrant green. Brownish streaks in the leaves indicate that the artichoke is old. Look for one with stems attached: the stem acts as a reserve food supply for the vegetable and will keep it fresh longer. During their off season, you can find artichoke hearts jarred in oil or vinegar, which are good for antipasto and can be added to sauces, salads or battered and fried.