Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Charred Marinated Fresh Artichokes

Fresh artichokes, charred in a frying pan then marinated with garlic, lemon, thyme and oregano make a wonderful addition to any dish or salad. 

Reflections on the move to Egypt
So, I am sitting here and it’s dark and I think it must be very late since the afternoon/evening has been long and dear husband is traveling and it’s just the hound and I.  But it’s just 7:25.  I look around at the empty room and I think I should feel lonely (and I do, a little) but I have a comfy chair and a warm home and I went out to eat with a couple of new friends today and I was introduced to a huge mall with a Marks and Spencers and a Spinneys grocery store.  The biggest Spinneys I have ever seen!  And I bought some new tights in Marky’s.  So, all in all, today has been a good day. 

And thinking back to Abu Dhabi
My very first Spinneys was a small affair in Abu Dhabi.  Way back when (1987) our Spinneys kept the same hours as the general working public.  9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 4 - 7 p.m., so, if you worked, you really couldn’t shop there.  Simon and the hound (three Boxers back) moved there alone while I waited in Houston for my visa. They wanted my birth certificate, our marriage certificate, copies of passports, copies of my university degree, two leaps through a burning hoop and, finally, I had to prove that I could pirouette on toe shoes. Needless to say, the visa took a while. (Damn those toe shoes; my feet have never been the same.) The dog, on the other hand, needed a health certificate and he was IN. They moved directly into a company villa, vacated by the previous family, who had kindly left all the edible food in the cupboards.  For the first few days, the dog was fed on chocolate cake because Simon couldn’t seem to find a store that was open when he was off. And that was my introduction to Spinneys.  (You fed my dog what?!)

Meanwhile, here in my neck of Cairo, another of my blessings is a grocery store mere walking minutes from our home.  You can’t really plan a meal ahead because you never know if they will have what you were counting on, but sometimes gifts are dropped in your lap.  Yesterday, it was fresh artichokes. We love them but every place else we have lived, when you can find them, they are not cheap.  Here they are about 50 cents each in US money. I call that cheap.

So I took them home and decided to marinate them myself. 

Lemon juice – fresh or bottled
5 fresh artichokes
5 cloves garlic
Olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lemon – for fresh juice
Sea salt
Black pepper

Fill a bowl with cold water and a few good squeezes of bottled or fresh lemon juice. This will be used for dipping your artichokes while you clean them and also to pop them in once the cleaning is done.  The lemon juice is supposed to help keep them from turning brown.

Clean your artichokes by trimming the end of the stem and cutting off the top inch and a half (about 3cm) of the leaves.

Rip the outside hard leaves off until you get to the tender inside leaves.  Try nibbling on a few to see how tender they are. 

The tender leaves are pretty tasty.
Once you get to the tender ones, trim the top again if you need to.  Peel the stem and the outside of the bottom.  Dip the artichoke in the lemon water.  

Cut the artichoke in half.

Using a spoon, place it at the top of the fuzzy bit (the choke) and use a twisting motion to remove all the fuzz.  Scrape the area clean with your spoon. 

Pop the artichoke in the lemon water.

Continue until all the artichokes are cleaned.  Change the water and add more lemon juice. 

Heat a non-stick skillet until roasting hot.  Lift the artichokes out a few at a time and give them a good shake over the sink to dry them as best you can.  Put them directly into the scorching skillet. 

Let them brown, checking  every few minutes by turning them over with tongs to peek.  When they are starting to brown, drizzle them with olive oil.

Meanwhile, slice your garlic very thinly.

When the artichokes are well browned, turn them over and do the same to the other side.

Once both sides are well colored, add in about a half a cup of water and put the lid on.  Cook until the water runs out and check for tenderness with a fork.  Add more water and put the lid back on until both sides are fork tender.

Turn the heat down to medium and season with salt and pepper.  Add a goodly amount of olive oil.  The artichokes don’t have to be knee deep but they should be at least ankle deep, so to speak. 

Add in the sliced garlic.  Let it cook until softened.  Add in the thyme and oregano.  Cook a minute or two more and then squeeze in the juice of your one lemon.  Turn the heat off. 

Allow to cool and then preserve in a sterilized jar or Ziploc bag.  Top with a little more olive oil to cover.  If you are using a bag, you can add some more olive oil but also try to get all the air out.  

Marinate for several days before eating.  (Actually you could probably eat them right now but I think the flavors will develop more with at least a couple of days of marinating.)  


UPDATE: We ate half of the artichokes last night as part of a tomato with fresh mozzarella salad and they were DIVINE!  After sprinkling the sliced tomato with a little sea salt,  I drizzled a bit of the marinade on the cheese and then used some more as the dressing on the baby leaf greens.


  1. Sounds delicious, Stacy! I've never made anything with artichokes though I do love them. Thanks for teaching me how to prepare them. I would have never known. I have an artichoke/leek/potato soup recipe I have wanted to make for several months, but didn't know how to handle them. I love your blog! It makes me hungry! OX

  2. Thanks, Karen. Please share that recipe with me! It sounds like a wonderful soup. I love your blog. It makes me laugh. And think.

  3. Hi Stacy, I had the same problem as Karen. I love artichokes but never knew how to prepare them. Your step-by-step guide is one of my favorites parts about your blog. I am totally confident I can now do this myself!!! Thanks Stacy,
    this looks like an absolute winner recipe!!

  4. You've made my day, Lora! That's exactly why I do the step-by-step. Take a photo and send it to me when you make your own artichoke dish, please. I would love to see what you come up with.


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