Grilled artichokes with lemon-olive vinaigrette

Artichokes are such a beautiful vegetable. They’re so mysterious with their sharp leaves and fuzzy insides, though, that many people shy away from them or opt for the simplicity of canned hearts. Working with whole artichokes is not as hard as it looks – it just takes a sharp knife, and the reward is great.

One of my favorite cookbooks, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys by David Tanis, contains this quote:

The artichoke is ripe with metaphor and parable possibilities. Getting past the thorns to the sweet center, all of that. Not at all like reaching up and harvesting a sweet peach, eating an artichoke requires a bit of work. For those willing to take the journey, the delicious heart is the prize at the end of the trail. 
 
I have a short list of chefs I greatly admire, and David Tanis is one of them. Tanis was the chef at Chez Panisse, an incredible Bay Area restaurant known for pioneering the local food movement, for more than 25 years. His recipes are simple celebrations of fresh ingredients – a valuable philosophy to use at home. This artichoke recipe is a wonderful example of how simple, fresh flavors can come together into something wonderful.

When you make it to the heart of the artichoke, the flavor rewards are great, but so are the nutritional rewards. One medium artichoke contains 28% of your daily fiber needs, 25% of your daily vitamin C, and 19% of your daily magnesium. Artichokes also proudly claim the number 7 spot in the USDA’s list of top 20 antioxidant-packed foods.

When choosing artichokes in the grocery store or at the farmer’s market, look for ones with tightly closed leaves, bright green color, and minimal dark markings.

This is a potent, olive-y vinaigrette. If you prefer a more subtle dipping sauce, try a garlic-infused olive oil.

Grilled artichokes with lemon-olive vinaigrette 
Serves 2

2 artichokes
1/2 of a large lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

For the vinaigrette:
Juice from 1/2 of a large lemon
1 tablespoon kalamata olives
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Wash and drain the artichokes. Using a sharp knife, cut the tops off the artichokes and pull off the bottom layer of leaves. Snip off any sharp tips from remaining leaves. Rub the cut ends with lemon to prevent browning. 
  2. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the artichokes to the pot with the salt, and squeeze the juice from the lemon half into the water. Cover, steam for 15 minutes, then drain.
  3. Heat a gas grill to medium-high heat, about 375 degrees. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and scoop out the fuzzy choke with a spoon. Drizzle the cut halves with olive oil and place cut side down on the hot grill. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes, turing once, until slightly charred. 
  4. To make the vinaigrette, combine the lemon juice, olives, garlic, parsley, and red wine vinegar in a small food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the olive oil and run the food processor until an emulsion forms. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Eat the artichokes by peeling off leaves, dipping in the vinaigrette, and using your teeth to scrape the artichoke meat from the base of the leaf. Don’t forget to peel and eat the stem and heart – those are the tastiest parts. 
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