Grilled Artichokes with Herby Lemon Aioli
For the last few years, I’ve taught a gardening class at my kids’ elementary school. There are few things more satisfying than planting seeds and seedlings with children and watching the tiny sprouts transform into towering Moulin Rouge sunflowers, juicy cherry tomatoes, and sweet peas suspended on a trellis for the snacking.The weekly afternoon class always seemed to arrive at an inconvenient time. I’d have a few minutes to race to the greenhouse, pack up a wheelbarrow with kid-sized garden gloves and tools, and speed to our designated plot, making up the lesson along the way. I typically felt harried and foolish for signing up for something that made my day more fractured. At least, that’s how I’d feel before the class. But each and every time, a bit of magic would happen that would leave me smiling, like watching kids devour radishes they’d grown themselves (on baguettes slathered with butter and sprinkled with flaky salt) or judging who had harvested the fattest champion carrot. On those warm spring days, it was a blessing to get to buzz around outdoors for 30 minutes and to see the green and growing world through the eyes of the kids.Despite my best efforts, I could never quite get the kids to embrace one of my favorite spring bloomers—artichokes. Have you seen their spectacular purple flowers? The spiky blooms earned a few oohs of admiration, but they failed to rouse the children's appetites like basil leaves or snap peas. In fact, the kids had a hard time believing the weird-looking plant could become anything delicious. An edible member of the thistle family, artichokes have an otherworldly beauty and an ancient pedigree (artichokes were beloved by ancient Greeks and Romans). Like most truly special things, they require a bit of effort to enjoy, but the resulting spring feast is entirely worth it. Artichokes transform any meal into a luxurious occasion.Artichokes are at their best—and easiest to prepare—when cooked quickly over a hot fire, particularly when served with luscious lemon aioli made with the smoky juices and pulp of grilled lemons. You can serve the creamy dressing on the side for dipping, but I prefer to toss it with the artichokes so it seeps into every crack and crevice. With grilled slices of my husband’s levain, one artichoke per person makes a meal at our house, along with a bottle or two of your favorite pink wine, of course!