Late winter-early spring in California is when we find the best artichokes, and seeing some today occasioned a wonderful recollection: When Cath and I were first dating we took little trips all over Northern California. (You know how it is). One such jaunt was to Monterey where we spent time at the famous aquarium, where I was especially entranced by the sardine tank. The little silver fish just raced round and round and round. I wanted to let them out. (I’ve never been fond of creatures in cages.)
Anyway, all that walking and all those fish made us thirsty so we made our way to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Restaurant, ordered cocktails and perused the bar menu. The grilled artichokes jumped off the page. These were beautiful — slightly crisp from the grill, lightly salty and served with a spicy dipping sauce that was mostly chipotle and garlic. They were heady, to say the least, and there was nothing left on that platter but two napkins.
We have made these several times at home. I don’t make a chipotle sauce but prefer a spicy lemon aioli.
Have plenty of napkins on hand and a cold drink. And don’t bother with any other food groups, these babies deserve your total attention.
Grilled Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Aioli
- Two medium artichokes
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Juice from one Meyer lemon (or regular lemon juice, which is tarter, to taste)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Clip the leaves of the artichokes to remove the thorn at the tips, and slice off the top ¾ of an inch. Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the artichokes. Boil for about 25 minutes, or until the outer leaves can be easily pulled off. Take out the artichokes, submerge in ice-cold water until cool, and then drain.
- Heat the grill. Charcoal is the best choice because the smoke adds additional flavor. But, if you must, a gas grill will do.
- Cut the artichokes in half and pull out the thistle heart (purple and white leaves in the middle). Using a pastry brush, coat the artichokes with olive oil inside and out. Salt and pepper all over and place them cut side down on the cool side of a hot grill. Because the olive oil will attract flames and burn them, keep them away from hot coals.
- Turn often until some of the outer leaves begin to crinkle and darken. Remove to a platter and allow to cool. Serve with aioli.
- Add the lemon juice, egg yolk, garlic, mustard and red pepper flakes to the pitcher of a blender or food processor and put the top on. Turn on blender/food processor and remove the safety top.
- Slowly pour in about half of the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified.
- Turn off the blender and add a pinch or two of salt and one of pepper, or to taste.
- Restart the blender and add the remaining olive oil, or enough to make the sauce thick and creamy. Pour into dipping bowls.