Summer Artichokes

   Finally the artichoke season is here and when I see the beautiful large globes with tight leaves at the market it brings back memories of my childhood. Artichoke season means the beginning of summer and the chance to sit down with my family to enjoy the freshly steamed artichokes.

     As a child and being one of nine children we could only afford artichokes at the peak of the season because of the lower prices at the market. This was the time of year we could afford for each of us to have our very own artichoke. My mother taught me all about artichokes and she would take me shopping, showing me how to pick out the large dark green globes with tight leaves that feel heavy. She would say "the light ones and the open ones are way past their prime".
     When we arrived home we would take the artichokes out of the bag and rinse them under cold water to remove any living insects that might have made a home. She would take a sharp knife and slice the tops off, remove part of the stem and hand them to me.
I would take a pair of scissors and trim the small leaves, also called bracts, and the tops off the larger leaves. She would take the artichokes and place them in a large pot with cold water, salt and squeeze lemons over the top. I would watch her cover them, carry the heavy pot to the stove, turn the heat on and tell me to come back in 45 minutes.
    All eleven of us sat around the dinner table each with our very own dish filled with drawn butter. I think this was my very first experience with drawn butter and I knew that I would be using this to dip anything I could into it. As all of us started to take the large leaves and slide the thick meat off  all you could here is silence. I think this was most likely the quietest time in our family. As I ate the darker leaves,  the soft tender center, kind of yellow leaves would appear and I knew soon I would be able to take those leaves all at once and dip them into the warm butter and let it drip over my entire chin. No need to wipe as this would interrupt my eating of the artichoke. As I removed the soft center leaves I could see the purple and white thistles and I knew it was time to stop eating and pick up my knife and spoon and remove them to expose the beautifully cooked heart and stem. Yes, I would eat the every bite, the heart and stem dipped into lots of  warm drawn butter, the beginning of summer and truly an experience I would never to forget. Thank you mom!

In this recipe I prepare the artichokes in the same way but take the artichoke and after cooking, clean the artichoke and grill over oak fired grill. At the end there is a video of the process.

Start by pulling the small leaves off the bottom.

Take a sharp knife and remove the top portion and part of the stem.

With a pair of scissors cut the top portion of the large leaves.

The artichoke should look like this.

With a sharp pairing knife trim the bottom leaves.

When you finish trimming the artichokes place them in a large pot with cold water, salt and lemon. Cover the pot and place over medium high heat. Simmer or steam the artichokes for 15 to 40 minutes depending on the size. Pierce the stem and heart with a fork to check for doneness.

Immediately place the artichokes under cold running water with ice in order to stop the cooking process.

Place the artichoke on a cutting board and with a sharp knife slice the artichoke in half, starting with the stem.

With a small knife and spoon remove the white and purple choke.

Drizzle the artichokes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place over a fire and cook for a couple of minutes to give them a good smoky flavor.

Place the artichokes onto a heat proof dish, cover with a mixture of Parmesan cheese and panko crumbs. Place  under your preheated broiler and grantin.

Thank you mom!