It’s the season for fresh artichokes, and they’re now readily available at all of our local farmers’ markets.
The combination of the moderate day-time temperatures, and this week’s spring rain will be quite beneficial in aiding in the production of high quality chokes for months to come. Always arriving just before the Easter holiday, artichokes are indeed a favorite for many.
At our local farmers’ markets, you will notice artichokes come in an array of sizes: “baby,” medium and giant. The most petite artichokes that are often only a few inches in length and usually labeled as “baby” are not a different variety than those of the larger sizes. Rather, they are simply a smaller version of the more standard-sized artichokes but still fully mature.
What sets the baby artichokes apart from the others is really the overall tenderness of the leaves, with practically the entire artichoke being edible, and the absence of the fuzzy center, or “choke” portion that is then surrounded by rows of petals that produce the most highly praised section, the heart.
Artichokes are not considered a vegetable but are indeed a flower of this specific type of thistle plant.
Baby artichokes are very easy to prepare and are something I either bread and fry to serve as a nice crispy appetizer, or boil marinate, and grill to serve as a nice side dish. After peeling off just a few layers of the outer leaves, and cutting off about a half-inch of the spiky top leaves, the entire artichoke can be consumed — leaves and all.
While you can leave them whole, I usually cut mine in half for a more reasonable bite-sized piece.
Grilled Baby Artichokes
6 baby artichokes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Remove about 2-3 layers of outer leaves of the artichokes and cut about a half-inch off of the top portion. Also slice the very tip of the stem end portion for a clean finish. Then slice artichokes in half lengthwise.
Fill a pan with a shallow amount of water and bring to high heat, add artichokes, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the heart potion is just tender, about 6-7 minutes. Then place the cooked artichokes directly into an ice water bath to halt the cooking process. This also aids in retaining some of the green color.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Then toss mixture with artichokes, and refrigerate with the marinade for at least 30 minutes. Finish by grilling artichokes for about 2 minutes per side to develop a nice outer char and slightly smoky flavor.
Yield: Serves 12 baby artichoke bites.