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Prickly Business: Grilled Artichokes with Caesar Aioli


June 26, 2012

Recipe:Grilled Artichokes with Caesar Aioli

We all have those “scary foods”. The things we’re afraid to make because we failed at it once before, or because as my Uncle said to my Aunt upon his first bite, “This is not how my Mother made her pot roast”, or because we’ve just freaked ourselves out that they are “hard” and there they loom in the back of our subconscious, little culinary demons teasing and taunting us when we least expect it.

Mine are rich, indulgent foods that I’ve enjoyed at multi-course dinners and wish I could ask for seconds of, if only that were acceptable. They are foie gras, and sea urchin, and carpaccio and all generally politically incorrect and offensive foods. Up until a while ago hollandaise was also on that list, but I’m proud to say I triumphed over that one with a little help from my friend Chelsey, and a big pile of Crab Cake Eggs Benedict.

Alas, I digress. We all have our culinary ghosts, and it’s easy to become paralyzed by them.

“Oh no…I never cook pork.”

“I can’t make a pie! Are you crazy?”

“You want me to de-vein what?”

The truth is you can, and you should. Cooking at its most basic form is just reading, and with a little confidence, and liquid courage to boot, you’d be surprised what you can accomplish in the kitchen.

Rumor has it artichokes are top of many people’s Scary Foods List. Perhaps it’s their prickly exterior. Or the stupid $3 a piece price tag at the local organic market. Maybe it’s how long they take to eat, or how long they take to cook. Whatever the reason, I’m here to tell you that You. Can. Cook. Artichokes.

If I were cheesy I would say this is a representation of the culinary mountain that you are going to climb. But I’m not. So this is just a picture of Mt Rainier from my early morning lap around the park the other day.

This recipe is for steamed and then grilled artichokes served with a Caesar inspired aioli. That said, there are countless things you can do with artichokes, so once you master this try exploring and seeing what else you’d like to do now that you’ve conquered your culinary mountain and are standing proudly on top.

What are your other Scary Foods?

Grilled Artichokes with Caesar Aioli

The perfect side to a summer supper of burgers: Grilled Artichokes

Tip: Costco sells artichokes very affordably (about $5 for a bag of 4).

  1. Thoroughly rinse artichokes to remove any dirt.
  2. Many recipes suggest cutting off any prickly tips of the leaves, but I seldom do because I’m lazy, and I don’t think it’s necessary. If you do want to cut off the tips, grab a pair of kitchen scissors and cut off about ½ inch of each tip, so it’s no longer sharp and pointy.
  3. Trim the stem so it’s about 1” long.
  4. Fill a large pot with water, set a steamer basket in the bottom, and add the artichoke(s), tops facing up.
  5. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to maintain boil.
  6. They will start to emit a delicious smell after about 10 minutes, but they typically take 30 – 45 minutes to cook pending on the size, and what level heat you’ve got it at. I’m impatient, so I tend to keep my heat very high and just occasionally add more water to make sure there’s enough in the pan.
  7. To test the artichokes, try pulling off an inner leaf. If it comes off easily, try eating the meat of the leaf via scraping your teeth along. It should be tender, yet not mushy, although you don’t want it to have any real “bite” to it. If it’s not done, add back to water and test again at 5 minute intervals.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat grill to high, clean grates, and rub with a bit of olive oil on a paper towel.
  9. Once the artichokes are done cut in half and allow to cool slightly.
  10. Using a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well because of the serration) scrape out the “choke” or that scary fuzzy stuff inside. Everything you don’t want should come out fairly easily, but if not you could easily cut it out via tracing the perimeter with a knife.
  11. Add to grill and without moving so you’ll get those sexy grill marks cook until slightly charred about 3-5 minutes.
  12. Serve with Caesar Aioli, which I just did a Caesar Dressing for and then pureed a bit longer to thicken up. Would also be delicious served with some melted butter and lemon juice.


  1. emmycooks says:

    Ok, artichokes are going to be my new food on the grill this summer! (My other favorite is broccoli.)

  2. Linda says:

    Anything in the animal category would be a Scary Food for me. Chicken (have you ever self-induced food poisoning? I have), fish (scaling/gut removal/etc.), pork, beef, any and all meats! I mostly things that are pre-ground, haha.

    • Erina says:

      That’s quite the list Linda, but I’d be inclined to agree! True confession: I’ve never even chopped up a whole chicken into the relegate 8 pieces or so that you’re supposed to be able to do. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hannah says:

    We love artichokes and I never thought to grill them before – this will be a summer staple (especially with “sexy grill marks”!), I’ve always wanted to spatchcock a chicken, so now that summer is arriving I think it’s time. Always good to assess your Scary Foods list! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Erina says:

      Oh yes, Hannah, they are lovely grilled taking on an even deeper, smokier, more complex flavor.

      I don’t even know what “spatchcock a chicken” means, so that would definteily be on my Scary Foods list too!

      • Hannah says:

        It involves removing the backbone from the chicken and grilling it flat…I’m not great with carving up a chicken but I want to give it a try!

        • Erina says:

          Please report back! I had something similar last night at Quinns and it was delicious!

          • Hannah says:

            Love the fish & chips at Quinn’s!

          • Erina says:

            Oh my goodness me too! Matt got it so I was able to steal from his plate and venture out a bit on the menu. Usually I always get that! Or their short ribs and gnocci. To die for if you haven’t tried them.

  4. Great post! I used to be like this about yeast dough but am proud to say that is no longer the case 🙂

    • Erina says:

      Well done! And yes, dough is definitely one of those “Scary Foods” that once you realize you can totally do doesn’t seem that hard at all. Was definitely my experience with making sticky buns…I was shocked how good…and easy…they were. Can’t believe you know Katherine and we hadn’t yet put two and two together!

  5. Joanne says:

    I majorly needed this artichoke pep talk. I had a traumatic experience with cooking baby chokes last year…with disastrous and NOT delicious results. But I think it’s time I get back on the proverbial horse! That aioli is convincing me to do it.

    • Erina says:

      Joanne, I’m so glad this was well-timed! Isn’t it funny, particuarly for us foodies, how if something goes wrong we do find it absolutely tramautic?!

      Dare I ask what happened?

      In the meantime, definitely give these a try. You can do it!

  6. JulieD says:

    This sounds so good, Erina! I love that you made a caesar aioli! It was so nice to meet you in Seattle at BlogHer Food too! 🙂

    • Erina says:

      So thrilled you enjoyed, and even more thrilled to have met at BlogHer Food. Hope to cross paths again soon!!

  7. What a great idea for a series!! I used to be scared of artichokes – and so many other things in the kitchen! This recipe is awesome, great instructions, thanks!

    • Erina says:

      Thanks Katherine…I love the idea of taking the “Scary” and turning it into the “Mastered”. We’ll see where this takes us…what’s on your scary foods list?

  8. […] of my favorite exchanges was the discussion of all of our “Scary Foods“. I began with grilled artichokes, but from there came confessions of trepidation about […]

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