Steamed Artichokes with Balsamic Dipping Sauce


Like other flowers, artichokes are ready in the spring. That makes this simple starter timely in more way than one. Not only it is seasonal but it's a snap to prepare. Just rinse the artichokes and steam them until tender, then serve them with a vinaigrette made in minutes.

Eating steamed artichokes can be a sensual experience: plucking petals one by one, tearing away the flesh with your teeth, looking forward to the tender center.  It can be a romantic way to start a special dinner for two, or fun way to encourage kids who like to play with their food to eat more vegetables.

Pick artichokes that are green, consistent in color, firm, and heavy for their size.  Look for ones whose petals (which look like leaves) are tightly closed, especially in the center.

For the dipping sauce, I used a combination of red wine vinegar and aged balsamic vinegar. You can use any vinegar you like or even substitute freshly squeezed lemon juice.

1 medium or large artichoke per person
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic or more
Ground peppercorn
Sea salt 
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil or more to taste

Rinse the artichokes and place them inside a large lidded pot. Add a couple of inches of water at the bottom and cover. Warm the pot over medium heat until the water starts to simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the artichokes are thoroughly tender, about 20 minutes or more. When you can easily pull out a petal, they're done.

While the artichokes steam, mix up the vinaigrette. Grate the garlic into a mixing bowl and pour the vinegar on top. Sprinkle in some sea salt and freshly ground peppercorn, and allow it to sit for a few minutes if you have time, so the garlic can soften and the sea salt can dissolve. First whisk in the mustard, then the olive oil. Taste it for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments. Set the sauce aside and serve it with the steamed artichokes as soon as they're ready.

To eat the artichokes, start by pulling away the bottom petals and discard the ones that don't have fleshy white parts at the bottom, where the petal came away from the heart of the artichoke. Start eating the petals when they begin to look like this:

Dip each one in the sauce and scrape away the white fleshy parts with your teeth.

As you work your way up and the petals become more tender, you can bite off more of the petal, leaving the tougher, thorny tips.

Eventually, after the petals become very small, they will disappear and you will find the choke.


Use a spoon to scrape away the choke from the artichoke heart. Discard the choke.

Cut the heart of the artichoke into bite-sized pieces and enjoy your prize.