I always wonder if I should hold off on posts such as this one. Most of the people who stumble across this site or have the feed plugged into their favorite reader are situated well above the equator. Grills are probably being packed away and many are looking forward to roasts, pastas, stews, chili, soups, or any hearty fare that typically receives front and center attention during the fall/winter seasons. Yet, here I am, in the middle of spring, writing about grilling up some flower buds that will be well-stocked on the local shelves until some point in summer.
Much of my family has either lived or currently lives in the southern part of the Bay Area of California. (No, there are no hippies in my family) Just a little bit further south is the place of Castroville where about 3/4 of the U.S. supply of artichokes are grown. As you may imagine, artichokes appeared very often on the dinner table whenever they were in season no matter where we lived. Whole steamed artichokes on a platter, an empty bowl for used leaves, and mayonnaise for dipping. That simple method of cooking and serving the flowery green buds lead me to developing a crush on all things artichoke as I crossed their path throughout the years. In dips, on pizzas, in salads, marinated, preserved, fried, and especially grilled.
When I moved to Argentina, I was extremely pleased to see that were practically just as easy to find in season as they were back in the U.S.. That’s because Argentina is one of the top producers of artichokes in the world. Chile, the next door neighbor has quite a few crops as well. Although I’m still a bit clueless to how much is consumed and how people consume them overall, most of the people who I do come across, seem to enjoy artichokes in some way or another as I listed above.
If you have never had artichokes grilled, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Try to buy artichokes that are similar in size.
Wash the artichokes under cold, running water. Make sure to get some water inside the leafy bloom area to clean out any soil or gritty material. Shake out water and set aside.
Fill a large non-reactive bowl about 1/3 of the way with water and squeeze in the juice of 2-3 lemons.
Cut the top off of each artichoke about 1/4 of the way down and cut the stem to leave about a 1 in. section remaining. Immediately place into the bowl of lemon water and toss to coat. Repeat this step after cutting each artichoke.
One by one remove each artichoke and use a paring knife or peeler to peel off the thin fibrous outer layer of the stem. Immediately place back in bowl making sure the stems are coated with water.
Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water. If you have a steam basket, great, use that. If not, try to stand the artichokes up by their stems. If any fall over don’t worry about it. Cover and bring water to a boil then turn the heat down to medium. Cook for about 15-30 minutes depending on size. When you think they are cooked, poke the bottom of one with small sharp knife. If there is no resistance, they’re ready. Another good way to check is if the outer leaves can be plucked off easily.
Using tongs, gently remove them from the pot and flip to remove any water that is within the leaves. Set aside to cool with the stem side up for about 10 minutes. Fire up the grill in the meantime.
You can grill them halved or quartered but either way you have to clean out the thorny hairy material on the inside first. First slice in half from tip to stem. Use a small spoon and gently scoop out the inner material. If the heart section seems a little too overcooked and mushy, leave them as halves or else they’ll fall apart on the grill as quarters. I prefer my grilled artichokes quartered.
Lay artichokes out evenly on a large shallow oven pan. First lightly brush all sides with white wine vinegar then do the same with a neutral cooking oil. Finally, sprinkle over some semi-coarse salt (kosher, sea salt, etc.) over the inner sides.
Place artichokes heart side down over a medium hot fire for about 4 minutes or until there are some nice charred markings as you see in the photo. Flip over and do the same for the other side.
Serve with mayonnaise mixed with a good amount of coarsely ground black pepper or whatever dipping sauce you prefer.