Artichokes are a great choice for entertaining. They feel special – because they’re delicious, somewhat mysterious, and require TLC to prepare. On the average night, I pass them by in the store and opt for something quick and easy and green to balance out dinner – a more ordinary vegetable, like broccoli or green beans. But when I’m looking for something exciting on the menu, I often think of them. Spring is peak season for harvesting artichokes and they were looking particularly good to me yesterday – too good to pass by.
Artichokes are a type of thistle – a flowering plant that grows beautiful purple petals. The edible part is the bud, which must be harvested before the flower blooms. Inside that bud – underneath some serious armor – is a delicious treat. There is definitely some work involved to get to it.
First trim off the very end of the stem. Then snip off the thorny tips of the leaves. When artichokes are cut, they oxidize fast, so be sure to quickly wipe the freshly cut parts with lemon, to prevent browning.
You definitely can’t eat the hairy part in the middle. That’s called the “choke” because that’s what you will do if you try to eat it. It’s easier to remove that after the artichoke is cooked and cooled.
There’s nothing like being presented with a beautifully-prepared artichoke: washed, trimmed of sharp points, choke removed, cooked, and ready to enjoy. This is a perfect recipe for entertaining because you can do all the hard messy stuff the day before. Just throw the artichokes on the grill before your guests arrive.
- 3 large globe artichokes
- 2 lemons, cut in half crosswise
- Olive oil for brushing
- Salt and pepper
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise (I like Hellmans best)
- ⅓ cup lowfat greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons of slivered basil or mint (optional)
- Prepare the artichokes Fill a large pot halfway with water and set it on the stove to bring to a boil while you trim the artichokes. You’ll need a sharp knife, a scissors, and your cut lemons nearby. Trim off the very bottom of the artichoke stem. Rub with lemon. Carefully shave off the tough outer layer of the stem. Rub lemon all over the cut stem. Using your scissors, snip the pointy tips of the leaves off with a scissor, until you get to the top, where the leaves are too crowded to separate. Rub the lemon over the outside of the artichoke, so the cut parts don’t turn brown. Lay the artichoke on a cutting board and wIth a sharp knife, carefully slice the artichoke in half starting from the thin stem. Rub each exposed inner half all over with lemon. Lay each half outer side down and slice about ¾ of an inch off at the tip, removing the last bunch of pointy tips. Rub the exposed ends with lemon. Repeat with the other two artichokes.
- Put the cut artichokes into the boiling water. When it returns to a boil, partially cover the pot and cook the artichokes for 20 minutes. Using tongs, gently transfer artichoke halves, cut side down, to a bowl (letting them drip off a bit first) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for an hour to cool. (or refrigerate them for up to 24 hours if you’re prepping ahead.)
- Make the aioli In a small bowl whisk all ingredients, except herbs. Store in the fridge, covered for up to 24 hours. Sprinkle freshly-cut herbs on top right before serving.
- Grill artichokes (If you chill the artichokes overnight, allow them to sit at room temperature for ½ hour before proceeding) Carefully scoop the chokes (the hairy part near the heart) out of the cooled artichokes using a teaspoon. Heat the grill to medium-high. Brush artichokes generously on both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill artichokes for about 5 minutes per side, outside first, until the cut side is nicely browned. Serve with lemon aioli. Enjoy!