Artichoke, an attractive, edible bud of a large thistle plant belonging to the sunflower family, has mild-flavored leaves and a tender, succulent center, or heart. Although artichokes are available year round in most areas, spring is peak season. Parboiling is a time-saving method that cooks the artichoke partially, softening the vegetable for roasting or other cooking methods. Parboiling is especially useful for artichokes, which are dense and require lengthy cooking time.
Slice the stem end of the artichoke straight across to make a flat base, then trim 1/2 to 1 inch from the pointy top.
Snip the sharp tips of the leaves, using clean kitchen shears. Rinse the artichoke thoroughly to remove sand and grit from the leaves.
Fill a large Dutch oven or saucepan with water, then add a pinch of salt, along with the juice of one or two lemons to add flavor and preserve the artichoke's bright color. You can also drizzle a small amount of olive oil into the water.
Bring the water to a boil, then place the artichoke in the boiling water and cover.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the artichoke for 15 minutes.
Drain the artichoke thoroughly, then roast or use in recipes as directed.
For artichoke that is ready to eat, boil the artichoke an additional 15 to 30 minutes, or until the leaves pull off easily and the bottom is easily pierced with a fork or paring knife. Serve boiled artichoke with olive oil, vinegar, butter or mayonnaise, or incorporate the artichoke into salads, soups, casseroles, pizza or other dishes.
Although artichokes are best when prepared the day of purchase, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to four days. Store the unwashed artichoke in a plastic bag, then wash it just before cooking.
Cook artichokes in non-aluminum cooking pans such as stainless steel, enamelware or glass. Aluminum discolors the vegetable and creates an odd, bitter flavor.