1. With a sharp knife, cut the stem and the top 1 inch of leaves from each artichoke. Wrap each artichoke in microwave-proof plastic wrap and set them in a circle on a microwave-proof dish.
2. Cook at full power: 2 medium artichokes will take 10 to 12 minutes; 3 or 4 artichokes, 15 minutes; and 6 artichokes, 20 minutes.
3. Remove them from the oven and unwrap them carefully (the plastic is very hot). Serve them right away or set them upside down on a plate to cool.
If you’re going to serve the artichokes hot, while they’re cooking, whip up a saucy accompaniment to dip them in.
• Stir-fry ¼ teaspoon minced garlic and 1/8 teaspoon crushed black pepper in ½ cup olive oil for a couple of minutes to release their aroma. Dip the leaves in this flavored olive oil.
• Heat 1/3 cup olive oil and stir in 2 tablespoons black olive paste or pesto, or ¼ cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
• Heat ½ cup olive oil until hot. Remove it from the heat and stir in ½ cup minced fresh herbs of your choice.
If you’re going to serve the artichokes chilled or at room temperature, you can turn them into a meal by serving two per person and by accompanying them with ricotta cheese that you can use as a dip.
• Another good sauce to serve with cold artichokes is made by mixing ¼ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup ketchup, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar.