Carciofi alle Brace (Char-Grilled Artichokes)

As Pellegrino Artusi, the best-selling nineteenth century Italian cookbook author said, “everyone knows how to cook artichokes on a grill”. Well, if you haven’t attempted it yet, here’s your opportunity with this easy recipe.

Artichokes are a marine climate vegetable and thrive in the cooler coastal climates. The main European producers are Italy, Spain and France. In the United states, California provides 100% of the crop and 80% of that is in Monterey County.

When I lived in the Bay area, Castroville, “The Artichoke Center of the World” was less than an hour away. I remember as a little girl taking Sunday afternoon drives with my family. My mother, father, grandmother and younger brother, Larry, (other siblings weren’t born yet) loved to go to Monterey.  We took the 17-Mile Drive (runs between Carmel and Pacific Grove) to the famed Pebble Beach, with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean all the way. (Some days I really miss that). On the way home we stopped in Castroville at the Giant Artichoke Restaurant for lunch.

It was in this small town that the California Artichoke industry got it’s start by Swiss Italians. Castroville has produced artichokes since the 1920’s and each May they host the annual Artichoke Festival complete with the crowning of an artichoke queen. Marilyn Monroe, (who was still Norma Jean at the time) was crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen in 1948). There are the usual festival type of activities with lots of food options and I’m certain you’ll find an artichoke you like because you can get them fried, grilled, marinated, pickled, sauteed and even creamed as a soup.

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 12 baby fresh artichokes or 6 medium
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Trim off the top inch of each artichoke, peel away the outer leaves, and trim the tips of the remaining ones. Trim the stems. (If you are using baby artichokes, like are in this photo, you can grill them with leaves and stems attached).
  2. In a large pot, bring 2-inches of water to a boil, add the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon salt and the chokes.
  3. Cover and steam 25-40 minutes (depending on size)
    until the bottoms pierce easily.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the marinating sauce. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from the other lemon), olive oil, Italian parsley, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Set aside until chokes are done.
  5. Drain chokes, when cool enough to touch cut each in half lengthwise. Scrape out the fuzzy center.
  6. Brush the artichokes with the sauce, marinate for 15 minutes.
  7. Place on grill (cut side down). Grill turning once about 10 minutes.
  8. Serve hot, warm or cold the next day … it’s all good.

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