Are there meals or certain foods that you just adore but, for whatever reason, believe their preparation to be daunting so you never attempt them at home? I don't know what I thought was so difficult about preparing artichokes; but now that I've prepared grilled artichokes a couple of times I can honestly say that my artichoke anxiety was overblown.
Steamed artichokes with aioli were one of those ‘special occasion' appetizers that my mom served when was younger, but when I went out on my own I never picked up that mantle.
Fast forward several years and a visit to Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel, California reintroduced my family and me to the epicurean, albeit prehistoric looking, wonder that is the artichoke.
And then…and then…Kate and I ordered a grilled artichoke when we were on our little road trip this summer…and drop the artichoke mike. I was determined to master this primordial-like flower/food.
A little artichoke lore for you: while the majority of artichoke production occurs in the France, Spain and Italy along the Mediterranean; California is the primary producer of the vegetable for US consumption. And, the artichoke is a member of the daisy family and the edible portion that we love to eat is actually the immature flower bud of the plant! Hmmm…who knew!
And aren't they so pretty with that purple to white to green!
In choosing your artichokes, look for tight leaves and squeeze them lightly. Really fresh artichokes will actually give you a little ‘squeek' when the leaves are pressed against each other.
Easy to prepare, grilled artichokes are an easy and impressive appetizer or side dish.
Combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and salt and set aside
Artichokes will brown where cut quickly, so don't start preparing them ahead of time.
Fill a bowl with water just enough to cover the artichokes and squeeze the other half of the lemon into the water
Trim the leaves just to cut the points off (optional)
Cut of the very tip of the whole artichoke
Cut the artichoke in half and scoop out the bristles in the middle with a soup spoon.
Immediately drop the artichoke half in the lemon water before you start on the next half.
Prepare a pot with a steamer rack over boiling water.
Place your artichoke halves on the steamer rack, reduce heat to medium, cover pot and let steam for 20 minutes
Prepare your grill.
Set aside 2 teaspoons of marinade
After 20 minutes, remove the artichoke halves and brush the olive oil marinade over the halves...tucking the sauce between the leaves.
Place the artichoke halves, cut side down on the grill and cook for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from the grill and serve with butter dipping sauce.
To enjoy the artichokes, pull the leaves off and and use your teeth to draw the meat (closest to the stem) off of the leaf. Eat as is or dip it in your favorite sauce. Once you've enjoyed all leaves, the nugget of meat in the middle...the heart...is pure goodness. Close your eyes and savor.
Place butter in microwave safe container and melt until almost liquid. Add in the reserved 2 teaspoons of herb oil and microwave on medium for another 20-30 seconds. Microwave strengths vary, you don't want it to sizzle and pop...just a slow warming until the flavors meld.
Re-warm as necessary before serving
In addition to the butter dipping sauce, I also made aioli to dip the leaves and heart into. I used this recipe from Epicurious.
OK…so now that the artichoke ‘monkey' is off my back, I can promise you we'll be enjoying these much more often. I paired them with some delicious steaks and a lush green salad…oh, bliss.
What is the dish that daunts you? You might find that it's easier than you think.
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