Growing up in California, I've had my fair share of artichokes. If you take a moment to think about them, they're such a strange vegetable. Every time I eat one, I can't help but wonder how anyone discovered they're edible. Nevertheless, I'm glad they did! In the U.S., artichokes are primarily grown in California and peak in the spring and again in the fall. Look for artichokes that have tightly closed leaves and are evenly green with little or no brown discoloration. They should also feel slightly heavy for their size. I don't eat them too often on the east coast, as they can cost a pretty penny. Or maybe I'm just used to the roadside stands in Castroville, off the coast of Monterey Bay, that sell 10 for a dollar, or something outrageously wonderful as that.
These artichokes are of course amazing to eat all on their own, but if you like a condiment for dipping (aside from mayonnaise) I find this lemon aioli is a fine companion. Frankly, it's kind of like crack. I couldn't stop dipping my artichokes! The aioli takes a few minutes of constant whisking, but by god is it worth it (think of it as a rewarding arm workout). It can also be made in a blender, which is great news for the time-sensitive (or lazy) cook.
GARLIC ROASTED ARTICHOKES
5 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried oregano
¾ cup olive oil
4 globe artichokes
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and olive oil. Mix well and set aside.
To prepare the artichokes, cut off their stems and rub the bottoms of each with lemon juice to prevent browning. Using a serrated knife, cut about 1½ inches off the top of each artichoke and discard. Using scissors or kitchen shears, cut off the top half of the remaining leaves (the prickly part). Rub the artichokes with lemon juice.
Tear off 4 sheets of aluminum foil per artichoke (large enough to wrap around the entire artichoke). Place an artichoke in the center of each piece and spoon the garlic and herb mixture over each. Work the mixture in between the leaves using your fingers or a small spoon. Pour the oil evenly over the 4 artichokes. Drizzle each with balsamic vinegar and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Wrap the foil around the artichokes (I like to double wrap mine to prevent leaking). Place the wrapped artichokes in an ovenproof baking dish and roast for 1¼ hours.
Yield: 4 roasted artichokes
- The artichokes are roasted with their choke intact. Once you've peeled away most of the outer leaves, you'll see small purple leaves in the center of the artichoke. Pull these out and using a spoon, scrape out the rest of the choke and discard, being careful not to dig into the heart. Then you can continue eating your artichoke heart with ease!
Adapted from Saveur magazine
1 clove garlic, smashed
¼ tsp. kosher salt
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. lemon zest, minced
2½ tsp. lemon juice
2/3 to 1 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a mortar and pestle, mash the salt and garlic together to form a paste. Place in a medium sized bowl and add the egg yolks, mustard, lemon zest, and juice. Whisk until smooth. While whisking constantly, add the olive oil a few drops at a time (I like to transfer the oil to a squeeze bottle for ease in pouring). Allow the oil to become fully incorporated before adding more, a little at a time. As the aioli begins to thicken, add the oil in a very slow and steady stream, still whisking constantly (if the mixture begins to separate, stop adding the oil and drizzle with a few drops of lukewarm water. While whisking, continue adding water a little at a time until the mixture comes back together. Then continue adding the oil). The end result should be thick, smooth, and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the all of the ingredients, except for the oil, in a blender and puree until smooth. With the blender running on low speed, slowly add some of the olive oil a little at a time. As the mixture begins to thicken, gradually pour the oil into the blender in a slow and steady stream, until a smooth and creamy consistency is reached (if the mixture begins to separate, stop adding the oil and drizzle with a few drops of lukewarm water. While the blender is running on low speed, continue adding water a little at a time until the mixture comes back together. Then continue adding the oil).