Unlike their bigger versions, baby artichokes are entirely edible when cooked. Snap off the tough outer petals down to where the leaves are almost all yellow, then cook them by steaming, boiling, deep-frying or baking.
This basic recipe for deep-frying baby artichokes comes from Pat Hopper, marketing director for California Artichoke and Vegetable Growers Corp. in Castroville. Sparkling wine and lemon-flavored sparkling water are suggested as beverages to serve with the artichokes.
Fried baby artichokes
Makes 3 to 4 servings.
salt and freshly ground pepper
Trim artichokes. Cut off stems. Snap off green leaves. When leaves begin to show yellow at their base, place your thumb at the juncture of green and yellow. Snap off at that point. Continue until artichoke is about 1/3 green and 2/3 yellow. Cut off green top and trim any green from base. Check for tough purple leaves by gently spreading leaves. If you see any, take a grapefruit spoon and scrape out fuzz and leaves. If there are no purple leaves, everything will be tender and edible. Rub with lemon to prevent browning of cut surfaces.
Place enough oil in deep skillet to come up about 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Bring oil to 250 to 275 degrees. Place artichokes upside down in skillet. Cook about 5 minutes, gently pressing down. Turn 'chokes and cook 5 minutes more. The object is to cook them to a tender stage without browning. Test by inserting a toothpick into the base of the artichoke. If you feel a hard spot, continue cooking. When tender, turn upside down and gently press down to open. Drain on paper towels.
Heat oil to 350 to 375 degrees. Place artichokes in, upside down. Gently press down often. When a golden brown, about 5 minutes, turn and continue cooking a minute or two. Drain on paper towels, leaves up. Salt and pepper, as desired. Serve hot.