Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

About Artichokes

Well, it’s been a busy couple weeks.

I have a new job.  I still have the old job.  (I.e., I work a lot.)  I finished the paper and presentation for the class I was taking on banned books and censorship.  And I have decided to love artichokes.

If you have ever prepared artichokes from their spiny, stiff, pigheaded original state, perhaps you can empathize when I say that they are not necessarily the easiest vegetable to love.  Fortunately, I believe in second chances.  And third ones.  And, in the case of artichokes, fourth ones.

This is something I enjoy about our (my and the Unicyclist’s) attitude toward food: we believe that pretty much anything can be delicious if prepared correctly.  He may not pine for okra, but he sure likes it when I make it sauteed with onion, tomato, cumin, and dried red pepper.  Likewise, up until a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t a rabid fan of fresh artichokes stuffed or boiled or drenched in butter (the first ways I tried cooking them).  However, I was certain they had to be good somehow.  Living so close to Cali, some of that Golden State artichoke passion has wafted over here.  Basically, it felt nearly criminal to fail to thrill to artichokes after I had seen The Giant Artichoke restaurant in Castroville, CA.  So I kept trying.

Last week, I found the sweet spot.

Hello, grilled ‘chokes.

So how can you join the artichoke fan club?  Read on for full instructions!

Start with some purty whole artichokes like these.  This is the time to get a pot of salted water boiling because artichokes oxidize quickly.  Once they are cut open, they’ll turn brown on you before you know it.

Then, cut off the tops and slice in half.

See that fuzzy stuff way down above the heart?  That’s the choke.  It’s not edible, so grab a spoon and scoop it out.

Mmmm…chokey.  Toss it in the compost pile or your trash can.

Now, trim down the outer leaves down a bit; the tops are really hard and inedible.  It’s the base of the leaves and the heart that are the tasty bits.  Once they’ve all been cleaned and de-choked, toss them in the boiling water.  Since these artichokes were pretty small (smaller than a baseball), I only boiled them for 4 minutes before draining.

While they cooked, I whipped up a marinade.  This is where you can get creative!  I flavored mine with olive oil, lemon juice, a splash of soy sauce, and loads of garlic, but you can make them Italian, Mexican, or Japanese-influenced as you choose!  Pour the marinade into the cut side of the artichokes and get them ready to grill.

Then, place them on a hot grill and cook them for a few minutes on each side, basting front and back with the marinade.  Their stint in the boiling water should have fully cooked them; the point of the grilling is to achieve that just-been-grilled flavor, so just leave them there long enough for enough sizzle and smoke  to suit you.

To eat, pull off a leaf at a time and use your teeth to scrape off the fleshy bit at the bottom.  The tender innermost leaves and the heart are fully edible, so enjoy them! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make up a dip for them, or use any leftover marinade.  (I put our leftover marinade in some sour cream and used that.  Simple and delicious.)

There is something intimate and casually sensual about eating grilled artichokes with someone else. (Sorry, grandma.)  Inevitably, your fingers will get covered in marinade, and you will be forced to eat slowly, savoring the food and the conversation, occasionally licking your fingers clean.  That’s exactly what makes it an amazing dish for a summer date or swanky late-night barbecue with friends.  Do be aware, however, that it’s less ideal for feeding ravening hordes of teens or extended family.  It takes at least half an hour to get any substantial amount of food in your stomach by eating an artichoke. Still, it’s quite a dish, and one well worth enjoying with good company.

If you’ve never tried grilling artichokes, live dangerously.  Come on…dust off your grill from winter storage and give it a spin this spring.

You won’t regret it.


4 Comments so far

  1. Mangochild May 6th, 2009 1:54 am

    I love artichokes, especially oven roasted. Your philosophy matches mine – so often its the method of cooking that makes the dish…. I know people who hate whole green beans but will devour them if sliced through the middle like a julliene.

  2. Kathleen May 6th, 2009 3:39 pm

    We are having artichokes and BBQ spare ribs for dinner tonight. I think I’ll give your BBQ method a try. We love artichokes.

  3. Laurel May 6th, 2009 9:08 pm

    Kathleen: I hope you enjoy! Let me know how it goes.

    Mangochild: Oven roasted? I may have to try that next! Do you marinate them or just make a yummy dip?

  4. Kimmus May 7th, 2009 4:12 pm

    Somebody once told me that they think grown adults should not use the word “yummy.” So to that I say, “Yummers!”

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