During the holidays, we always make some traditional dishes, but I like to find something to add a new “wow” to the table. This year, my holiday menu includes grilled artichokes, an easy yet elegant dish.
In most places in North America, artichokes are available year-round. While there are more than 140 varieties of artichoke, only about 40 varieties are grown commercially and, in this country, the most common is the globe artichoke (aka the “French” or “green” artichoke). The name “artichoke” comes from the northern Italian words “articiocco” and “articclos,” meaning pinecone, referring to the vegetable’s multiple leaves.
Artichokes, natives of the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, are members of the thistle group of the sunflower family. The part we eat is the plant’s flower bud. If you don’t harvest artichoke buds, they blossom into big, violet-blue flowers.
Artichokes are easy to grow, but they need space, as they spread out about 6 feet and grow up to 3-4 feet tall. One plant will produce multiple artichokes for 5-10 years.
If you’ve never enjoyed an artichoke, you may wonder how to eat them. They’re steamed or boiled until the stem and center are relatively soft, and the leaves pull out easily from the center. They can be eaten hot or cold. To eat, pull off outer petals one at a time. Then dip the fleshy base of each petal into sauce (often mayonnaise) or melted butter; pull through your teeth to remove the soft, pulpy petal portion. Discard the remaining petal. Continue until all petals have been removed. Then spoon out the fuzzy center at the base and discard. The bottom, or heart, of the artichoke is entirely edible. Cut into small pieces and dip into sauce.
And mark your calendars for next June, when Castroville, California – the heart of the state’s artichoke universe – holds its annual artichoke festival June 2-3, 2018 (http://artichokefestival.org).
What You’ll Need
- Large pot to fit artichokes
- 4 large artichokes
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 lemons, cut in half
- 1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise