May 3, 2012 by jooshanoosh
I love spring. I love that it is sunny, I love that I can open my windows during the day and I love that my kids can play outside and leave me alone for a minute. And I love the arrival of delicious spring produce. Like arugula. And snap peas. And asparagus. And the lovely artichoke. Sure, we live in an industrial world where you can get any of these foods any time, but they are fresher and taste better in the spring.
My wife and I have a slight addiction to the lovely artichoke. We get excited when we see them pop up at the stores and we eat about a metric ton before it gets to warm and they lose their great flavor. Sure you can boil them, which is the only way I had them as a kid, but they are so much better grilled. Here’s how to do it. (And I took lots of photos so it would seem like I am the Pioneer Woman, but without her camera skills or audience of millions.)
Start with some artichokes. They look like this.
Use a really sharp knife (they are tough buggers) and lob the top 1 1/2″ off the artichoke. If you’ve never had an artichoke before you only eat whats in the middle. You don’t eat the leaves.
Here is what it will look like. Artichokes oxidize really quickly (meaning the cut parts turn brown.) It won’t change the taste at all, but if you are serving them to company and want them to look purty, you can put them in water with a bit of lemon after you cut them.
Then, using your sharp knife, cut the bottom of the stem off and peel the stem, pulling off the bottom 2 or 3 leaves as you do – they will be too tough anyway and won’t have anything on them to eat. Note: If you happen to be taking pictures of yourself preparing artichokes and holding a very sharp kinfe and your iPhone and an artichoke at the same time, don’t cut your hand off.
Once you’ve peeled the artichoke stem, slice it in half lengthwise. Try and wiggle your camera a bit as you take the picture so it is nice and blury. Now see in the blurry center of the artichoke there where you can see something that looks like blurry hair? That is the choke, and you don’t want to eat it. I mean, maybe you do. Maybe you are really into fibrous, undigestible plant material that looks like hair. If you are I am sure there are websites just for you. But if you just like delicious food you want to get rid of that.
Take a spoon and scoop it out. Make sure you get it all.
This is what your finished, prepped artichoke looks like. See how it is already starting to oxidize a bit? Don’t be scared.
Put the artichokes in a baking dish, put about an inch of water in the bottom and then cover with plastic wrap. Feel free to use the clear plastic wrap if you are a boring individual with no flair. Microwave for about 6 minutes. Poke a fork or knife into the cut center of the artichoke to make sure they are cooked through. You want them soft. This is not the time to go for those gross “crisp cooked” vegetables they always try and serve you in restaurants. There is nothing more disapointing than an undercooked artichoke so make sure if it cooked through. It will cook a bit more on the grill but not much.
Drain the water and dress the artichokes generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. I like a lot of salt becaues I am adicted to things that are bad for me (hello, Diet Coke!) but do what you will.
Fire up the grill and when it is good and hot, grill the artichokes cut side down until they have a nice char, about 5 to 6 minutes. Flip them over and give them another few minutes on the leafy side. Yummy.
Check out that char!
To eat, start at the outside and peel the leaves off. Dip the end of the leaf in some kind of a dipping sauce and then scrape the soft part off with your teeth. Then discard the leaf. (Really, who thought of eating these things first?) The traditional dip is melted butter or mayonaise, which would be fine. My wife uses a balsamic vineagrette. And I like to use this little wonder which I buy by the case when I am in the vicinity of a Trader Joe’s expressly for this purpose. Trader Joe’s Sweet Chili Sauce. Uh, yum.
Once you have eaten all the leaves, you are left with the heart. This part you can eat whole. And it is the best part.
So, don’t you want some artichokes right now? You could have this for dinner TONIGHT! Our you could go wander around campus and hope someone give you money for a taco. I’m just sayin…