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Dr. Thistlelove or: How I learned to stop steaming and grill the artichoke

artichoke

Memories are funny things.  Some of them are perfectly vivid down to the smells and tactile sensations.  Others evoke an emotional response with the details obscured by the fog of time.  Artichokes induce such an emotional response in me, giving me a sense of calm, a feeling of safety, and a feeling of warmth.  You see, when I was growing up artichokes where a special treat at our dinner table, a time when the stresses from the day disappeared and for a brief moment everything was perfect.  We would each receive our own artichoke accompanied by a small bowl of melted butter.  Peel a leaf, a light dip of butter, and just enough flesh on each to give a taste of the treat waiting ahead, the ritual was almost as good at the meal.  Finally after what seemed like an eternity you would reach a furry center.  I was convinced this would kill me if not for the valiant efforts of my father who would expertly remove the “choke” making the heart safe for consumption.  A final dip into butter and we would consume the heart, perhaps one of the best of all epicurean delights, only made better by the work required to obtain this other worldly delight.  Until very recently I had only ever prepared artichokes in the same way as my mother.  She would carefully steam them until the flesh of the leaves yielded to the tooth and the heart was soft and warm.  Awhile back while preparing a grilled meal I decided to finish the artichokes on the grill, and my world has never been the same.  Read on to see how I prepare my grilled artichokes.

While at work the other day Katt called to tell me she had purchased a couple of steaks for the grill.  I love steaks and I love to grill, this was going to be a good night indeed.  She also informed me that she had procured a couple of beautiful artichokes.  The rest of the day was a blur.  It took everything I had to not quit my job immediately to enjoy these artichokes.  Artichokes that would soon succumb to my grill giving up their hearts so that I may enjoy them, here is how it went down.

Grilled Artichoke:
1 artichoke per person
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Ground Cumin
Mayonnaise or Butter for dipping

First take your favourite stock pot (with steamer insert and lid) and get a couple of inches of water simmering for steaming duties.  Also take this time to heat up your grill.  Now let’s start working on the artichokes.

artichoketopgone
After a brief time admiring just how beautiful they are start by cutting off about the top inch or two of the artichoke.  This simply allows the artichokes to sit nicely on the steamer insert.  Remember, as soon as you cut into an artichoke the clock is running.  If you don’t plan on cooking them immediately you should prepare some cold water with lemon juice to place the cut artichokes in to keep them from turning brown.  I don’t usually bother with this unless I am doing a lot of artichokes.  Instead I just place the artichokes in the steamer as soon as I have them ready.

artichoketiptrim
After removing the top of the artichoke take kitchen shears or scissors and cut off the tip of each leaf.  This is to protect the eaters’ fingers from being stabbed by the sharp tips of the leaves.

artichoketrimstem
Trim the stem of the artichoke just enough so that they will fit into your steamer with the lid closed.

artichokesteam
At this point you have a choice.  If you are the kind of person that likes a boring tuna and a boring life than go ahead and cook the artichokes until they are done.  This takes about 30-40 minutes or until a fork inserted into the stem meets little resistance.  If you are however the kind of person, like me, that seeks adventure, is cool and likes an exciting tuna, then just steam them for 15 minutes and we will finish them on the grill!

artichokesplit
After steaming for 15 minutes remove the artichokes to a cutting board and let them cool until you can safely handle them.  At this point, starting from the stem cut them in twain.

artichokechoke
This will expose the choke and the most difficult part of the preparation.

artichokeclean
I start by removing all of the purple tipped baby leaves to completely expose the “choke” (the mass of immature florets that look like hairs covering the heart).  Through trial and error I have found a grapefruit spoon to be the best tool to remove the “choke”.  If you find yourself without one a teaspoon or melon scooper is your next best choice.  Starting from the cut side working towards the outside of the artichoke remove the entire “choke” by scraping/cutting and trying your hardest not to damage the delicious heart.

artichokegrill
With the “choke” removed drizzle olive oil over both sides of the artichoke making sure to cover the heart and season liberally with salt, fresh ground pepper and ground cumin.  Place the artichokes on the grill cut side up and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn the artichokes over and grill cut side down for 5 minutes longer.

artichokedone
That’s it you’re done and ready to enjoy.  I like to serve them with either mayonnaise or melted butter for dipping.  Peel off a leaf, dip and eat the flesh from the heart side.  After eating the flesh from all the leaves, savor the heart.  In this particular case I served them with mayonnaise and a side of steak, but believe me the artichoke was the star of this meal.

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