If ever a food has intimidated me, it was the artichoke. I confess that up until I made this, I had never eaten an artichoke that was not from a can. It essentially looks like an armadillo, layered with the same scale-like protective coat. I had no idea how to penetrate it. But once I saw an artichoke recipe from Cooking for Keeps, with a beautifully illustrated tutorial on how to tackle this thing, I had to try it. And, it really wasn’t that hard. It actually was the most fun I’ve ever had prepping a vegetable. It’s almost like dissecting something in anatomy class.
Before you dissect your artichoke, it’s nice to know a little about its anatomy. It has a stem, meaty heart, choke, inner and outer leaves, and tiny little thorns on the ends of the outer petals. Usually the stem and choke are removed before eating, as well as some of the more fibrous outer leaves. The thorns are trimmed from the remaining tips. The only edible portion of the outer leaves is the white thick chunk at their bottom. The inner leaves are more tender and entirely edible for the most part. However, the heart is the real star of the show. It’s a solid mass that erupts from the stem and is utterly delightful to sink your teeth into. While artichokes can be eaten naked, I love to dress it up with this lemon basil vinaigrette. Once the artichokes come off the grill, drizzle them with vinaigrette and keep some extra on reserve for dipping.
The Bite: As I mentioned last week, this is part two of your tooth anatomy crash course. Today’s focus is enamel. Enamel is the hardest structure in your body. That’s right, it’s even harder than bone. Enamel is your castle wall, the outermost portion of your tooth. It’s job is to prevent pathogens and substances from breaking down it’s wall and attacking the inside of your tooth. However, unlike a castle, it can’t be rebuilt after it has been destroyed. The cells that form your enamel are called ameloblasts and once they’ve built up your enamel, they no longer function.This means that your enamel has no reparative function. That’s why it’s essential to keep your enamel in good repair, because, if there is a crack or break in its castle wall, it will automatically be more susceptible to future damage.
Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
Yield: 6 artichoke halves
3 large artichokes
1/2 lemon + 2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup basil, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
For the artichokes, fill a large pot with 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut off the top third of the artichokes, remove the outer leaves, and trim any prickly leaves you may find. Cut the artichoke in half. You should now see its choke below the purple inner leaves. Remove the choke with a small knife and spoon, cutting and scooping around it’s edges (I just removed the fuzz before cooking-you’ll know what I’m talking about once you slice the artichoke in half). Be sure to leave the artichoke heart intact. Rub the lemon halve over the exposed interior of the artichoke to prevent oxidation. Squeeze out the remaining lemon juice, from half, into your large pot of boiling water. Add a pinch of salt and the trimmed artichoke halves, cut side up, to the pot of water. Cook for 10 minutes or until the artichokes are tender. Take the artichokes out of the pot and pat them dry with a paper towel. Place the artichokes cut side down on the grill and grill for 5-10 minutes until you see that they are slightly charred and have grill marks. Remove the artichokes from the heat and put them on a serving platter.
For the vinaigrette, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, vinegar, salt, garlic, mustard, olive oil and basil. Season with pepper to taste. Drizzle over artichokes and serve.
Source: adapted from Cooking for Keeps