Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop styling by Audrey Davis
Active Time
40 MIN
Total Time
40 MIN
Yield
Serves : 4

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!

How to Make It

Step 1    

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Trim stem of each artichoke to 1 inch, and snap off dark outer leaves. Use a sharp knife to trim off the top 1 inch from the artichoke leaves. Use a paring knife to peel the dark green skin from the stem and base of artichoke. Slice each artichoke in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife to remove the choke and the purple, prickly-tipped leaves from center of each half. Place prepped artichokes in a large bowl of cold water with juice of 2 lemons.

Step 2    

Drain artichokes, and cook in boiling salted water until just tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 12 minutes. Drain artichokes, and pat dry.

Step 3    

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium fire, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Carefully wipe the preheated grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again.

Step 4    

Toss artichokes in oil. Grill artichokes, cut sides down, uncovered, over direct heat, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred in spots, about 10 minutes. Halve remaining lemon. Grill lemon, cut sides down, and chile until charred and softened, about 5 minutes.

Step
Step 5    

Squeeze juice from warm grilled lemons into a bowl, discarding seeds. Scoop out lemon flesh, coarsely chop, and add to juice. Finely chop chile, and add to bowl. Whisk in mayonnaise, herbs, thyme, garlic, and salt. Serve warm artichokes with aioli and grilled bread.

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