I served Artichoke Soup at a dinner party when we were first married and moved to Maine. It took me hours to boil the artichokes, scrape off the tiny amount of “meat” at the base of each leaf, separate the “choke” (fine fuzzy hair-like filaments) from the “heart” (the 2-4 bite tender part at the top of the stem.) It was an act of love. I can’t remember who came, but I do remember it took 16 artichokes and 2 cups of light cream and chicken stock to make enough for 8! I’m a native Californian who (is this the forum for true confessions?) midnight-harvested artichokes with my brothers and sisters from the fields around Pajaro Dunes in the late 1970s. We’d eat them boiled, with Dad’s “Secret” Sauce, cracked crab, salad, and sourdough slathered with butter.
“Heaven” is 12 dedicated artichoke plates, designed to accomodate the whole, the sauce, and the discarded leaves. Okay, heaven is really deep-tissue massage! But I was happy when I got a set, and used them for subsequent dinner parties (never, NEVER, again made artichoke soup!) I should have suspected that a guest in Maine might not know how to eat one, just like a non-native might not know how to tackle boiled lobster. Until a few years ago, we could count on a little nervous laughter and the question: “Uhhh…what… how…?” Now they’re readily available in Maine grocery stores.
The artichokes coming from California have been excellent the last few weeks. Our current favorite preparation is grilling. (Yep, even though it’s usually 25F when Peter cracks open the door to fire up the grill!) The following recipes are for grilled artichokes and an excellent sauce. Serve them hot, or at room temperature. And reconsider if you ever, EVER, have the inclination to turn them into soup!
Grilled Artichokes with Creamy Sesame Sauce (Serves 4-8)
4 medium – large artichokes
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (curly parsley is OK if that’s what’s in the ‘frige.)
1 teaspoon freshly ground salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1-2 cloves minced fresh garlic
1. Set a large pot of water to boil; there should be enough to cover the artichokes.
2. Trim off the artichoke stems (and 3/4″ of the tops if they’re particularly thorny) and cut them in half, lengthwise.
3. Cook the artichokes at a gently boil for 20 minutes. Using tongs remove them from the water and set them at a slight angel (using the edge of a broiling pan?), stem side up, so that the water drains out as they cool. This can be done hours in advance, but make sure the artichokes are room temp before you grill them.
4. While the artichokes are cooking, whisk together the olive oil, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic in a glass measuring cup
5. Before grilling set the artichokes, cut side up,on a baking sheet. Spoon 2-3 teaspoons of the olive oil mixture over the whole cut side. There should be enough left to baste over the rounded side when grilling. If not, just add a little more olive oil to the measuring cup.
6. Grill over a medium high heat for 4 minutes on each side, starting with the cut side down. During the first four minutes you can baste the rounded (backs.) When finished, transfer to individual plates for serving or to a serving platter. The artichokes can be eaten hot, warm, or at room temp, making them an easy “starter” or “side!”
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/3 cup sour cream or heavy cream (depending on the consistency you prefer: thicker? thinner?)
juice of 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon (more to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1-2 tablespoons GF Soy Sauce, depending on how salty you like your sauce. Start with 1 and add more if necessary. (We use SAN-J Organic Tamari. Happily it’s been available since Gus was diagnosed and is now at organic food stores and most well stocked grocery markets.)
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (more to taste, but it doesn’t take much to flavor the sauce.)
Optional: “tinch” Wasabi powder or paste. (Gus’s long ago invented word: tiny bit + pinch = “tinch”)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonaise and sour cream.
2. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, GF soy sauce/Tamari, sesame oil, and wasabi powder/paste. Whisk to blend. Refrigerate until ready to use. This is also an excellent sauce for grilled or steamed broccoli or grilled or chilled asparagus, but best to wait for those few precious weeks in spring when asparagus is in season!