As a long-time admirer of fresh artichokes, I was slow to learn how to prepare them. I thought they were too much trouble, not worth the effort. I mean, why deal with them if I can go to the store and get a can, a jar or a frozen bag of hearts. Although they have their advantages, have you seen the ingredients in the jarred, preserved variety?
I no longer buy them.
And after seeing the conventional monoculture artichoke crops in California on our trip there last Fall, I knew I had to do a better job of supporting organic artichoke agriculture.
California artichoke peak season is from March – May with a smaller crop producing in October. Our local artichokes make a nice showing at the farmers market in the Fall, but I could hardly contain myself when I saw these organic beauties the grocery store.
A few years ago, I tried my first Roasted Artichoke with Curried Aioli at a favorite farm-to-table restaurant, Adrift, in Anacortes. I’ve written before about this inspired restaurant and their Caesar salad here. The bar faces the kitchen, our most favorite place to sit, where chefs work their magic.
They prepare their artichokes on a griddle, cut in half, cut side up, then flipped, cut side down, with a bit of water added and lidded for a steaming effect. Served with curried aioli, it’s sublime.
They don’t trim the prickly leaves either. One less thing.
From the moment I was able to find fresh artichokes, I got to work learning about artichokes and how to prepare them. I left the prickly tips on and found trimming and slicing the end of the artichoke off was a step I could skip too because the leaves soften during the cooking process.
Just be careful when preparing them for the oven and don’t prick yourself.
I tried several ways to prepare artichokes, as there’re many. First I tried stovetop: roasting in a skillet and steaming. Then I tried oven-roasting: on a sheet-pan, then a skillet. I found skillet-roasting in the oven to be my favorite method. The skillet yields a bit of a smoky flavor and a nice char to the edges of the leaves.
I also found the choke, the center purply-prickly-hairy part, is much easier to remove after the artichoke is cooked. With a bit of nudging, it slips right out, as opposed to trying to remove it before roasting. I’ve tried it and it’s a pain. I often cut way more than needed, wasting too much of the good stuff.
Once the choke is removed, the artichoke is ready to serve with a squeeze of lemon and a quick aioli for dipping.
Roasted artichoke is slow food at its finest. Each leaf is picked, lightly dipped, then eaten by scraping the fleshy goodness off the bottom end of the leaf with your teeth. Once all the leaves have been picked over, the heart is ready to be enjoyed. It’s at the base of the artichoke. The effort to get there pays off.
A leisurely glass of wine and in good company makes the experience even better.
There’s a debate regarding cooking acidic foods in a cast iron pan out of concern for the pan imparting a metallic flavor to the food and/or damaging the finish. I’ve not experienced either. But if you’re concerned, an enameled skillet or dutch oven would work here as well.
Oh, be sure to discard the leaves in the compost or trash. The disposal won’t work. Trust me.
Guys, Earth Day is April 22. Follow along with #EarthMonth for tips and inspiration about how we can be better stewards of our planet. Every little bit matters. This short, four-minute video is one example why.
Roasted Artichokes with Curried Aioli
For the Artichokes:
- 2 Large Whole Artichokes
- 1 1/2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Lemons
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper
For the Quick Aioli:
- 3 Tbs Vegan Mayonnaise like Just Mayo
- 1 Clove Large of Garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp Curry Powder or Hot Madras Curry Powder
- 1/8 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
For the Artichokes:
- Place a well seasoned cast iron skillet on the center rack and turn oven on to preheat at 425F (218C). If your skillet is not well seasoned, use a dutch oven or oven proof skillet that has a lid (see notes). Meanwhile, wash the outside of the artichoke, gently nudging the leaves open a bit to wash out any loose dirt. Pat dry.
- Remove leaves at the base of the stem until a bit of white is showing at the base of the artichoke. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the tough outer layer of the stem, starting at the base to about 1" down the stem. Cut the stem with a serrated knife to about 1". Rub with a lemon to prevent oxidation. If the leaves are particularly prickly, trim the tips of the leaves, but I find, most of the time, this is an unnecessary step. So forge ahead without if you wish. Use a serrated knife to slice the artichoke in 1/2, from stem to tip. Take 1/2 a lemon and squeeze, generously, lemon juice all over the exposed areas of the artichoke. Using a pastry brush, bush olive oil all over the artichokes, both on the exposed inside and outside, getting into the cracks and crevices.
- Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and place the artichokes cut side up on the skillet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place a few slices of lemon in the pan and place the pan back in the oven to roast. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes of roasting, pull the pan from the oven. Using a pair of tongs, turn the artichokes over, face down and pour 3 Tbs of water into the pan. It will steam and sputter, so be careful here. Quickly cover the pan with a lid and place the pan back in the oven for 25 minutes. Test to see if artichokes are done by forking the base of the choke for tenderness. If needed, give the artichokes 5-10 more minutes, covered, adding a few more Tbs of water for steam. The time can vary depending on the size of the artichoke.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Remove the choke (the fuzzy purple part) of the artichoke using a spoon. Scoop from the bottom of the choke and out, removing the purple leaves and the fuzzy hairy parts. Be sure not to scrape the bottom of the artichoke, because this is the sublime part, the heart, to enjoy after the leaves have been picked through.
- Sprinkle again with a bit of salt, and fresh ground pepper. Serve with wedges of lemon warm or at room temperature.
For the Quick Aioli:
- In a small bowl combine the mayo, garlic, curry powder, sea salt and lemon juice. Whisk together until smooth. Store for up to one week in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Recipe Notes1. There are conflicting reports on whether to use cast iron for cooking when acidic ingredients are involved (citrus, tomatoes, ect.) for concern of damaging the finish or imparting a metallic taste to the food. I've not had an issue with either, although I checked with Lodge for my skillet and they advised using only a well seasoned skillet when cooking with acidic ingredients. If in doubt, use a dutch oven or oven proof enameled skillet.
2. Do not put the discarded artichoke leaves down the disposal. Preferably, compost them or put them in the trash.