My mother has been in town the past few days, visiting from Washington state. We spent the majority of her visit relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, but squeezed in time for a couple of semi-touristy adventures as well: a visit to the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park and a mini-road trip to Monterey.
In addition to beautiful beaches, the trip down the coast from the San Francisco peninsula to Monterey included acres and acres of farmland. I found myself wishing for roadside signs to help me identify the various fruits and veggies growing in the fields. One crop was impossible to misidentify: artichokes.
The artichoke plant is a perennial thistle, and the part we eat is the edible bud of the flower. As we neared Castroville, artichokes became the primary roadside crop. They are clearly a big thing in this town: along with the requisite vegetable stands selling artichokes (10 for $1!), there were signs for fried artichokes and the annual Artichoke Festival.
After lunching at a seafood restaurant on Cannery Row in Monterey, we stopped at one of the veggie stands in Castroville on our drive north. I came away with 10 baby artichokes, 6 avocados, and an orange-fleshed honeydew melon (all for only $5!).
At the time of purchase, I wasn't sure what exactly I would do with the baby artichokes. But when it came time to eat them yesterday, the hot day made it clear: grill them. We've been grilling a lot during the past week since the weather has been warm. The patio behind our home is getting so much use our first summer here that I'm starting to wonder how we ever lived without it. Last night, we enjoyed glasses of white wine in the sunshine while JR cooked the artichokes on the grill.
The little veggies turned out quite tasty. We did find them to be a bit of work for little yield, however. Though precious, the little chokes didn't have much meat on their leaves. The next time I make this, I will try it with regular-sized artichokes, where the big heart will make the effort seem more worthwhile.
We enjoyed our artichokes with Meyer Lemon Risotto. It was a great last-nigh-of-mom's-visit meal. Mom, I had a fantastic few days with you! See you in a few weeks on my next trip to Seattle. In the meantime, it's back to work for me.
4 large or 12 baby artichokes
1/2 c. orange juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh thyme
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the water. Working with one artichoke at a time, snap off a few of the rough outer leaves until you reach the pale green inner leaves. Cut off a small piece from the stem end. Trim the thorny leaf tops with a serrated knife. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise. With a small spoon, scoop out the fuzzy choke. As each artichoke is trimmed, drop it into the water to prevent discoloration.
Bring a saucepan 3/4 fill of water to a boil. Add the artichokes and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Whisk together orange juice, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Arrange artichokes in a single layer in a large glass baking dish. Pour orange juice mixture over the top. Allow to marinate at room temperature for about an hour, turning a couple of times.
Cut remaining two lemons in half. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Arrange the artichokes and lemons directly over the hottest part of the fire. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice.
Arrange artichokes on a serving platter. Squeeze the juice of the grilled lemons over the top.