I don’t know why I don’t prepare artichokes more often. Every time I make them I swear I am going to start eating them more often, but usually don’t get around to making them again for 5 or 6 months or more. It’s not that they are difficult to prepare. Sure they can be a little time consuming if you want to grill them as in the recipe below, but they can also be made without much fuss. Just peel the stems, pop off a few of the outer leaves then simmer them in acidulated water until tender. It’s then up to the diner to do the work of peeling off the leaves, one by one, and scraping away the “meat” at the bottom of the leaf. It’s messy, but a fun, interactive meal. This is the way my wife usually prepares them, then sits down to eat a couple, as her entire meal, dipping each leaf into mayo before eating. While I am perfectly happy eating artichokes this way, I was in the mood to do something a little more. I wanted to “jazz” them up a bit and since I hadn’t done much grilling lately that was the obvious choice.
The recipe contains a range for the crushed red pepper. Using only 1/2 tsp. will result in artichokes that are only mildly annoyed, 1 tsp. will result in making them rather perturbed, 2 tsp. will give you angry artichokes and 1 Tbsp.+ are going to make them pretty darned pissed. I’ll let you decide which kind you want to deal with.
4 each Artichokes, large
2 each Lemons
6 cloves Garlic
2/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. – 1Tbsp+ Crushed Red Pepper
1 tsp. Dried Basil
1/2 tsp. Dried Oregano
1 tsp. Black Pepper, freshly ground
Fill a sauce pot with water, season liberally with salt. Cut 1 lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water. Prepare the artichokes by popping off the outside leaves until you get to the more tender yellowish leaves. Using a paring knife, peel the stems and bottom portion of the artichoke heart so that no green is showing. Next cut off the top 2/3’s of the artichoke and pull out all the purple tinted leaves from the center. Cut into quarters, lengthwise, through the artichoke and stem. Remove the fuzzy choke from the center. Do one artichoke at a time and as you finish place the pieces into the acidulated water to keep them from turning brown. The hardest part is now over. Turn on the heat underneath the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer the artichokes until just on the raw side of tender, about 6-8 minutes once the water comes to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, red pepper, basil, oregano, and black pepper in a bowl. Crush the garlic cloves well but leave relatively whole and add. Cut the other lemon into 6 slices and set aside. When the artichokes are done, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and toss, hot, into the oil-herb mixture. Toss the artichokes to cover with the marinade and allow to cool to room temperature. At this point you can refrigerate these and finish them the in the next day or two.
When ready to grill, preheat the grill to medium high and bring the artichokes to room temperature if you had chilled them overnight. When the grill is hot lightly char the reserved lemon slices. Add the the olive oil mixture. Remove the artichokes from the oil marinade, shaking off any excess oil and placing them on the grill. Gently crush the lemon slices into the olive oil to help release their juices. Place the artichokes on the grill, season with salt and grill until tender and lightly charred on both sides, about 8 minutes. Toss back into the olive oil marinade and toss to coat. These are best served warm, after a 5 minute sit in the marinade, after grilling, but they are also delicious served cold hours later or the following day as part of an antipasto course.