Grilled Artichoke with Mint

I don’t know about you, but artichokes are a little intimidating to me. Up until last year, I had never eaten a fresh one. In fact, the only exposure I had to them came from bottled artichoke hearts. This changed last year at an AMICI dinner here in Austin, TX at Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant. We had the pleasure of sharing our table with Carmelo himself and he taught us how to eat a stuffed artichoke.

Last year we prepared a couple of stuffed artichokes and they did turn out great but I just purchased some from the new Trader Joe’s in Austin and wanted to try something different. I was surprised that I found some recipes to grill them but then again, it seems like you can find a recipe to cook just about anything on the grill if you look hard enough. This time I really wanted to try something with fresh mint because I just bought a mint plant for the patio. I found a few recipes so I just borrowed from all of them to create a recipe I wanted to try. I also learned that this is a traditional preparation from Rome, where they use a lot of mint.

Ingredients

  • 4 artichokes
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon mint, chopped

Directions

First, get a bowl of cold water and add the juice of 2 lemons. I know fresh lemons are best, but we didn’t have any so I used lemon juice concentrate, about 2 tablespoons.

Cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke and the bottom of the stem. Some people said to cut off all but 1 inch of the stem, however, I just cut of the bottom 1/4 inch and left the rest. It tasted great so I don’t recommend cutting it completely off. Next, snip off the sharp points of the leaves and pull off the tiny leaves near the base of the artichoke. If you have the lemons, rub the cut parts of the artichoke with your lemon to keep it from turning brown. Otherwise, just move on to the next step, which is to soak the artichokes in the lemon water mixture for about 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, rinse the artichokes and then place them in a steamer basket over simmering water and  allow them to cook for 25 to 35 minutes, until the heart is tender.

steamedartichokes

Once steamed, allow them to cool. The picture above is one I took while out artichokes were cooling. Notice that they lose their bright green color during the steaming process and take on a camo-ish color. While the artichoke are cooling, prepare the butter mixture. Melt the butter in a glass bowl in your microwave or on the stove. Then add the olive oil, minced garlic and mint and then mix it thoroughly.

The, cut in half length wise and remove the fuzzy choke. I used a pairing knife along the bottom to give it a clean cut and then a spoon to scoop it out. This way, you don’t risk losing any of the tender heart. Now, brush all sides of each artichoke with the butter mixture. Try to get it under the leaves as you are brushing it by gently lifting the leaves and separating them. Save the remaining butter mixture for dipping at your table.

Grill the artichokes for 8 minutes under medium heat. You can vary the time a little depending on your grill. Start with the leaf side down and check them after 4 minutes. They should have a golden color with nice grill marks. Then, turn them over and repeat. This side will probably cook a little faster so keep an eye on them. One you pull them off the grill, you can drizzle them with some of the remaining butter. Serve them warm or at room temp.

grillingartichokesIn the picture above you can see our artichokes grilling. We also had grilled squash with our meal so on the right you can see the squash grilling.

 

Grilled Squash & Eggplant

This summer has been the summer of fresh veggies. We started going to the farmer’s market and really experimenting with all the locally grown vegetables. The tomatoes were awesome and we made our share of capresse salads! The other two vegetables that caught our eyes were the variety of squash and eggplants. We’ve always enjoyed squash in the summer but only the ones from the local grocery. I didn’t know there was such a diverse variety of them so we tries to pick samples that were new to us. Our favorite turns out to be the flying saucer squash. We cooked it every way we could imagine. We grilled it, baked it, stuffed it and made casseroles out of it. Every way was great, but to really enjoy the flavor, we found grilling to be the best.

Flying Saucer Squash

The same thing happened with eggplant. Neither of us have much experience with eggplants. They always look neat and fun when you see them in the market. Their bright purple skin always catches my eye but we didn’t know what to do with them so we skipped them. This summer at the farmer’s market we found the deep purple ones, but also some white one and striped ones. I looked online and found some really interesting recipes and we found out we really love the eggplants! The best tip I found on line was to sweat the eggplants with salt before you use them. This gets out the excess water and leaves a creamy, sweet texture that can be a meal on its own.

To celebrate the end of summer, here is our favorite way of preparing both the squash and eggplant. I’m already looking forward to next year’s crop!

Squash and Eggplant in bowl

Ingredients:

  • 2 squash, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch round discs
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Instructions

Once you’ve cut the squash and eggplant, place the eggplant on a cooking sheet and coat each side of the discs with a layer of salt. Let them sit in the salt to draw out the excess moisture. Check them periodically and drain off the water. Turn them over after about 15 minutes and re-salt them.

Squash and Eggplant cut

Once your ready, heat your grill to medium-high heat. Coat the squash and eggplant with a light layer of olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Place them on the grill and cook 3 minutes per side.

Grilled Squash and Eggplant

When you’re done, the outside with have a thin skin on them but the inside will be moist and tender. If you’re vegetarian, this could be a main course, but for us, it is a great side for any kind of grilled meat. They are also great placed on top of a small bed of simple pasta.