Anyone out there who doesn’t like artichokes? I don’t see any hands.
I think artichokes are a bit like avocados. Even served simply without a whole lot of fuss, both vegetables generate a lot of buzz around the table. Carrots and celery certainly don’t get that kind of respect. Why is that?
I found this recipe for Grilled and Smothered Artichokes in Cara Mangini’s excellent cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher. (Available on Amazon) I loved it! I think I enjoyed it as much for its bounty of artichokes as for the beauty of its presentation–charred artichoke quarters dressed in a tart lemon-garlic vinaigrette and garnished with beautiful caramelized lemon wedges hot off your grill. Your guests will be wowed. I was.
I have to confess that Mangini first got my attention with her book title. The concept of a vegetable butcher is a clever turn of a phrase. Mangini defines a vegetable butcher as “a trusted professional who breaks down vegetables with knife lessons, insider tips and approachable preparations.” Apparently that is exactly what she did when she worked at Mario Batali’s Eataly in Manhattan. In the introduction to her book she writes: “At Eataly, customers walked right up to me with their produce for purchase and I would clean it, peel it, slice it and prime it. I shredded cabbage, shelled fava beans, shaved celery root and prepped case after case of baby artichokes.” I think that’s a great concept. Wouldn’t you love to have a vegetable butcher as a lifeline when you shop at Whole Foods, for example? “Excuse me. I’m thinking of acquiring my first kohlrabi….”
No! Wait! I just looked it up. Whole Foods already has a produce butcher at its 43,000 square foot Bryant Park New York City location. For $1 a pound, they will prep your produce and whisper cooking directions in your ear. (Note the kindergarten-esque graphic advertising the various “cuts” below the lighted Produce Butcher sign shown in the photo below. “Minced” made me laugh out loud. And where is grated and cored? Shredded? Heaven forbid you would want a brunoise or a batonnet.) I know that, if I ever make it to the toney Bryant Park produce butcher, I’m going to ask her to prep a durian right there in the middle of the store. Maybe that is a bit of schadenfreude on my part, but, like my alter-ego Bart Simpson, I do thrive on chaos. ( Jimmy Kimmel tries durian.)
But, back to the book. Mangini presents more than 150 recipes and discusses the preparation and seasonality of almost 100 vegetables in her book. To be sure, she discusses mainstream vegetables like carrots and celery and sweet potatoes but she also showcases some not-so-mainstream vegetables like kohlrabi, rutabagas, and fennel. You don’t have to be a food adventurer to enjoy this book but a careful reading will definitely help you broaden your horizons when you shop the vegetable counters at your local market.
So far, I’ve found Mangini’s recipes to be several cuts ( shameless pun. sorry.) above the norm, too. She’ll have your mouth watering with recipes like Cauliflower and Caramelized Fennel Soup, Smashed and Seared Beets with Chimichurri and Goat cheese Crema, and a Late Summer Ratatouille baked under a butter, parmesan and oat crust. Oh my!
Here is my adaptation of her recipe for Grilled and Smothered Artichokes.
Yields 4 Servings
- 3 medium artichokes (trimmed, peeled, quartered and choke removed)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 3 large lemons (2 halved and juiced, 1 quartered)
- 1 T. balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1/2 t. fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper (extra to taste)
- 1/2 cup loosely-packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (coarsely chopped)
- Coarse or flaked sea salt to taste (to finish)
- Kalamata olives to garnish
- Chopped parsley to garnish
- Prepare artichokes.
- In a large deep pan, put quartered artichoke hearts in a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam until the leaves of the artichoke pull away from the heart and the heart is easily pierced with a knife. This will take 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and drain the artichokes.
- Whisk lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, sea salt, pepper and three-quarters of the chopped parsley in a large bowl. Add the steamed artichoke quarters to the bowl of marinade. Let the artichokes sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours to absorb the flavors in the marinade.
- Remove the artichoke quarters from the marinade and, over a hot bbq grill, cook the artichoke quarters until grill marks appear. (Watch the artichokes carefully while grilling. You want them to be charred but not burned to a crisp.) Flip the quarters and grill the other side. This will take 3-5 minutes. You want the artichokes to be completely tender. Transfer the grilled artichokes to a platter. Drizzle with some of the remaining marinade.
- Grill the lemon quarters flesh side down on your bbq grill until you see grill marks and the sugars from the lemons begin to caramelize.
- Arrange the grilled lemon quarters on top of the artichokes. Arrange some Kalamata olives artfully on top of the dish. Garnish with remaining parsley and sprinkle salt and pepper on the dish. Serve immediately.