Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ants and Artichokes

Somehow it went from 48° and rainy to 80° and humid seemingly overnight.  I refuse to complain about this, as it is June 1st and we were due for spring to finally arrive.  Things are popping up in the garden, and we have even managed to harvest some radishes, albeit with bite marks from the thousands of ants helping themselves first.  I have resorted to an organic arsenal of chemical weapons to be used without restraint to combat these little moochers.  Gallons of vinegar and a bottle of ground cinnamon later, I hope to be able to eat the products of my little garden – even if they do taste like a deranged salad.
Mostly I am trying to keep the fava beans and kale I planted intact.  I’ve already told you about my love for these two items and I am willing to go to great lengths to prevent the destruction of them.  Yesterday as I poured a gallon of vinegar over the tiny brown ants while laughing maniacally I briefly worried about some sort of retaliation, but hopefully it won’t amount to that. I guess time will tell.
In the meantime, we have been grilling a lot.  Not just because of the heat, but because the light in our kitchen is burnt out and we can’t figure out how to remove the fixture to (1) see what kind of light bulbs need replacing and (2) to actually do the replacing.  So rather than try to cook in the dark, we moved the main portion of our dinner prep outside.  This gives me an opportunity to monitor the ants and to enjoy the cooling evenings at the same time.
Joe and I have done a lot of grilling in the time we have been together, and not all of it results in perfectly charred dinners.  When we were still living in D.C. we tried to grill whole baby artichokes.  I was told they were very good and that you could eat the whole thing.  I was sold.  But when we tried to eat them, they were fibrous and prickly; I was determined to try them again. 
This past weekend I finally saw a package of baby artichokes at the grocery store and begged Joe to let us try them again.  I was confident I had read enough about them to correct the flaw in our original preparation.  I scoured the cookbooks I had and realized with horror that apparently everyone but me knows how to properly cook artichokes.  How do I know this?  Because there are literally no comprehensive instructions for preparing them for the grill.  Most of the recipes I found said to “prepare artichokes for the grill.” That’s it!  Arg!  How am I to know how to prepare them, yes they are technically “entirely edible” but I have experience the error in that logic. 

Further research and some trial and error later, we did manage to make (and eat) some grilled artichokes.  They are quite good, especially when dunked into a garlic aioli.  So if you are feeling adventurous this weekend and have access to baby artichokes, give this a try.

Grilled Baby Artichokes with Faux Aioli
12 – 15 baby artichokes
4 lemonsOlive oil, for brushing artichokes
Salt and Pepper
3 Tb mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp. salt
First, place a large pot of water on the stove.  Juice 2 lemons into it and set aside (do not turn on water yet). 

To prepare the artichokes  - cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke, then peel off all of the lower outer leaves and trim the stem to about ½ inch long.  Place the artichokes into the pot of water with lemon juice and repeat with the remaining artichokes.  The acidified water will help prevent the artichokes from turning brown on the cut portions. 
Then, place the pot over medium high heat and boil artichokes for about 7-10 minutes.  They should be soft enough to pierce with a fork.  Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath, once the artichokes are softened, drain and place them in the ice water to stop the cooking. 
Preheat the grill.  Once the grill is ready, slice the artichokes in half and rub with half of a cut lemon, again to prevent browning.  Then brush the cut sides of the artichokes with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill until browned and softened.

For the aioli, mix the chopped garlic and salt together to form a paste.  Add to the mayonnaise with the juice and zest from one lemon.  Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve the artichokes with slices of lemon from the remaining ½ of lemon and prepared aioli. 

P.S. Apparently pouring vinegar on your garden is not a good idea.  I managed to destroy all of the lettuce and most of the radishes I planted and only slightly damaged the fava beans and beets…and the ants are still there. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion or question.