Artichokes possess more fascinating ways to please than almost any other vegetable. Just on their own, they can be sautéed, braised, fried or grilled; they can be delicious when sliced very thin and eaten raw with lemon juice and olive oil. Artichoke may be a good ingredient in a risotto, frittata, soup, terrific lasagna, rustic torta, gratin or a stew. Cooking them is not complicated at all. Prepping them, however, is an exercise that needs patience, particularly so with the small ones.

Small artichokes, whose growers describe them as babies, have made a welcome entry into the market. They come from the same plants as the larger ones, but they are clipped from a lower section. They don’t have a fuzzy choke at their heart, and they have a fine taste, but they require at least as much patience to prep thoroughly as the larger ones.

When you are about to buy artichokes, look them over carefully to be sure that they are fresh and worth the effort you’ll be putting into preparing them. Bend back a leaf, which should snap, not fold over limply. Check the bottom end of them where it has been cut. It should still be green and possibly dewy, at least in part. If it is dark or even black and lifeless, it was cut from the plant too long ago. Keep fresh artichokes for up to a week in the refrigerator, stowed in a large open plastic bag.

(From the book, Ingredienti: Marcella’s Guide to the Market, Marcella Hazan & Victor Hazan)