I love the grassy, sweet taste of artichokes—the bud of a flower in the thistle family. But when I first started cooking, artichokes intimidated me.
I finally confronted my artichoke phobia when I got my first restaurant job. I needed to learn how to prep and cook artichokes—and fast. Needless to say, I served plenty of creamy artichoke soup in those early days as I was figuring out how to cook these delicate spring vegetables. I finally know how, and there really is nothing to it. I promise.
Here are my foolproof steps for preparing and trimming an artichoke, plus my favorite recipes for cooking them—grilled, steamed and stuffed.
1. Using a sharp knife, trim the top 1/2 inch off of the artichoke.
2. Trim 1/2 to 1 inch from the stem end, and if the stem is fibrous, peel it with a vegetable peeler.
3. Remove the small, tough outer layer(s) of leaves from the stem end and snip all remaining spiky tips form the rest of the outer leaves using kitchen shears.
4. Rub the whole artichoke, especially the cut portions, with a lemon half. The lemon juice will keep the artichoke from turning brown as quickly.
Depending on your recipes, here are 3 ways to cook your prepared artichokes:
How to Steam Artichokes: Place artichokes stem-end-up in a steamer basket over 2 inches of water in a large, deep pot. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Cover and steam until the stem and base are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 25 to 30 minutes for medium artichokes, 40 to 45 minutes for jumbo-size artichokes.
How to Grill Artichokes: Fill a large pot three-quarters full with water; add the juice of 1 lemon. Place artichokes stem-end-up in the water. Cover, bring to a boil and cook until the stem and base are almost tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes for medium artichokes, 12 to 15 minutes for jumbo-size artichokes. Remove from the water and let cool while you preheat a grill to medium. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise; scoop out the choke and first few inner leaves. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until tender and lightly charred, about 5 minutes per side.
How to Microwave Artichokes: Place artichokes stem-end-up in a large glass bowl or deep glass dish; add 1/2 cup water (or white wine) and a squeeze of lemon. Tightly cover with plastic wrap (or a glass lid). Microwave on High until the stem and base are almost tender when pierced with a fork, 6 to 10 minutes. (Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the artichokes and/or the microwave's power.) Remove from the microwave and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes to finish cooking.
Here are some of my favorite recipes that use fresh artichokes:
Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Stuffed Artichokes 
One of the easiest, and most delicious, ways to enjoy an artichoke is to stuff it. Artichokes are pretty neutral-tasting, so they take well to bold flavors. In our recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Stuffed Artichokes, you stuff whole artichokes with whole-wheat breadcrumbs, feta, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and braise them in broth flavored with more garlic and lemon juice.
Related: Step-by-Step Photos: How to Stuff an Artichoke 
Grilled Artichokes 
If you can find baby artichokes at the market, grill them! These tender, first-of-the-season artichokes will pick up a lovely smoky flavor from the grill. After prepping the artichokes and boiling them in lemon-water, you slice them in half lengthwise and grill them.
If you prefer canned artichokes to fresh, this recipe is a winner:
Artichoke-Scrambled Eggs Benedict 
Roasted artichoke bottoms stand in for English muffins in this quick yet elegant supper. Substitute roasted mushrooms for the pancetta for a vegetarian option. Serve with roasted new potatoes or a tossed salad.
More Recipes: 22 Delicious Ways to Cook Artichokes 
What are your favorite ways to cook fresh artichokes? Tell us what you think below.