For centuries, Jews throughout the Mediterranean have made good use of artichokes. Most notably, in Rome, crisp and lightly fried varieties adorn many a holiday table. I’ve always loved the simplicity and approachable nature of Italian cuisine, so much so that my husband and I partook in a local Tuscan cooking class on our whirlwind honeymoon adventure through Italy. When I returned home, I was thrilled to observe that since the climate and terrain in California are so similar to that in Italy, I am spoiled by the riches in produce we get here that resemble true Italian fare.
Perhaps it is because I grew up in an image-conscious city, or because healthy eating and cooking is important to me, but I often like finding ways to lighten up a recipe while maintaining great flavor. Lucky for me, I prefer my artichokes grilled, rather than fried. I know that just about everything tastes better fried, but I love the smoky, crisp bite of a charred edge that only a grill can produce.
Often times, artichokes act as a vehicle for rich, creamy sauces, but with just the right amount of seasoning and the slight kiss of the grill, these babies need no doctoring, and are exceptional on their own. And don’t be too intimidated about preparing and cleaning fresh artichokes. Once you try your hand at the first one, you’ll get the hang of it. Served hot off the grill or at room temperature, grilled artichokes are the perfect accompaniment to any summer meal.
To read more about Jennifer Stempel’s culinary adventures, check out her blog at The Cuban Reuben.
2 large whole artichokes
2 lemons, cut in half
1 head of garlic, sliced in half
1 bay leaf
1 tbs Old Bay seasoning
Seasoning blend of your choice (I really like Regular and Salt-Free Greek Seasoning)
In a large stock pot with the steamer insert removed, add 2 halves of the lemon (1 whole lemon), garlic, bay leaf, and Old Bay seasoning. Fill the pot with water until it just meets the bottom of the steamer insert. Place over medium heat, and let sit.
Meanwhile, to prepare the artichokes for steaming, first cut about an inch off the top of the artichoke. Then, with your hand, peel off the tougher leaves (about 1 layer into the artichoke).
Using a pairing knife, cut off the base of the leaves you just peeled, and continue pairing down the stem until you have a single, uniform layer. Rub the exposed areas with lemon, squeezing the juice from the lemon a bit.
Cut the artichoke in half, and again, run the lemon over the cut sides to keep from browning too much.
Remove the fibrous choke at the center, as well as any colored (purple) leaves. Run the lemon over the exposed cuts. Slice the halves into quarters, and assemble on the steaming insert of the stock pot.
Cover and let the water simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the artichokes are fork tender.
(You can stop here, and eat them as is, but you'd miss out on the next step!)
Drizzle olive oil and seasoning blend over the steamed artichokes, then place them over high heat on a grill. Grill 1-2 minutes per side.
As the artichokes are already cooked, the goal here is just to get grill marks and the flavor of the char.