Often when I find artichoke recipes or see chefs cook them on Food Network, the chef will cut off all the leaves, throw them out, and just use the heart. While the heart is delicious, its a crime to throw out all of those beautiful leaves!
A favorite meal at our house while I was growing up was steamed or boiled artichokes. They're such a beautiful vegetable and make for a fun finger food meal. I treated Joe and I to an enormous globe artichoke for dinner last night -- its great when they're in season because I got that giant for $2.50 (about half the price they are in the summer).
As an aside, artichokes are VERY healthy, you can check out a lot of the benefits here.
Steamed artichoke with lemon garlic dipping sauce
Tilapia poached with lemon, capers, dill, and tomatoes
Cooking an artichoke is actually really easy. I trimmed the points off the outer leaves and cut the top off the artichoke. Then I cut the stem off at the base of the artichoke so it would sit upright. In this case, the stem was long and beautiful, so I trimmed of the end, peeled it, cut it into 4 pieces, and steamed it along with the artichoke. Its a great treat -- it tastes very similar to the heart. I steamed the artichoke in a steaming basket in a covered pot. I squeezed half a lemon into the steaming liquid (to prevent browning), and also added 2 bay leaves. Artichokes take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to steam, depending on their size (this one took nearly an hour). You can tell they're done when the leaves pull off easily and the tender inside of the leaf can be scraped off with your teeth.
If you've never tried an artichoke like this, you should! Its an entirely different experience and flavor than the marinated ones that are served on pizzas and antipasto platters.