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COOKING TECHNIQUES VARY

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Artichokes can be boiled, steamed or microwaved. It's a matter of personal preference.

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Cooks have different opinions about the best way to cook artichokes: Boiling, steaming and microwaving are all successful methods, but I've always preferred them boiled, simply because I think they taste better that way.

I place slivers of garlic between a few of the leaves (about five per artichoke) and throw a sprig or two of fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, into the water.Of course, these ingredients can be added using all three techniques, but they add more flavor when the vegetable is boiled.

Because my use of the ``boiled' method has caused some culinary arguments over the years, here's a rundown on each method:

Boiled artichokes: Stand prepared artichokes in a deep saucepan or Dutch oven with 3 inches of water. Oil, lemon juice and seasoning may be added to the cooking water if desired. Cover and boil gently 30 to 40 minutes (depending on size) or until a petal near the center pulls out easily. Remove from pan and turn upside down to drain.

Steamed artichokes: Place prepared artichokes on rack above boiling water. Cover and steam 25 to 45 minutes (depending on size) or until a petal near the center pulls out easily.

Microwaved artichokes: Place prepared artichokes in deep microwave-safe cup or bowl. Add water ( 1/2 cup for 1 artichoke, 1 cup for 2 artichokes and 1 cup for 4 artichokes. Using a 600-700-watt microwave oven, microwave 1 artichoke for 5 to 7 minutes, 2 artichokes for 7 to 10 minutes and 4 artichokes for 12 to 15 minutes.

To store raw artichokes, sprinkle with a few drops of fresh water, place in an airtight plastic bag and refrigerate. They should store successfully up to 10 days.

Once they have cooled, cooked and drained artichokes can be cut in half lengthwise.

Scoop out the chokes (fuzzy centers) and the small inedible leaves using the bowl of a small spoon. Store airtight in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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