4 large or 12 small artichokes
Melted butter, vinaigrette, mayonnaise or lemon wedges, olive oil and salt for serving
Preparing the artichoke:
Peel off tough outer leaves.
Trim around the bottom of the artichoke, cutting off the stem and trimming the base.
If you want to cook only the bottom, cut off the top half of the leaves. Scoop out the choke. If you want to leave the artichoke whole but remove the choke, trim the leaves somewhat less, force them open, then use a long spoon to scrape out the choke. (This will take a little while to do completely but isn't difficult.)
Rig up a steamer in a pot and put the artichokes bottom up in it. Cover and cook for 20 to 40 minutes. Sample an outer leaf; when it pulls away easily and its meat is tender, they're done.
Drain them upside down for a minute or two longer before serving hot; store upside down if you plan to serve them later. Serve hot with melted butter, at room temperature with vinaigrette, or cold with mayonnaise. Or serve at any temperature with lemon and/or olive oil and salt. Time 30 to 45 minutes - Adapted from "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman