Artichokes are a deceptive vegetable. Their prickly and tough exterior makes them look not only inedible, but a bit dangerous to handle. Underneath those sharp and rough leaves, however, is a sweet and tender treat that is worth excavating. Left alone on the stalk, the artichoke morphs into an elaborate flower that looks a bit like a peacock with purple plumes. I often grow them in my side yard and leave the later harvest to flower because they are so pretty. If you pick them early enough, however, or purchase them at the farmer's market or store (and you can find them everywhere this time of year) you get something that is both earthy and sweet. Such a great way to start spring.
My mother has always made giant stuffed artichokes for Easter dinner. Her large full chokes are truly gorgeous to behold -- like enormous desert flowers filled with bread crumb pollen -- and even more delightful to eat. But because I am lazy, I rarely make this dish. Filling each leaf of an artichoke seems a tedious task. And, although I love to spend long dinners leisurely making my way through a giant artichoke, my children and husband don't have the patience to slowly nibble the meat from the edge of each leaf. I therefore came up with a compromise recipe: keep the stuffing, but ditch the tiresome preparation and elongated eating period. This makes everyone happy.
In my version, I use medium-sized artichokes, trimming off all the hard outer leaves and chopping off the top. I cook them halfway in a pot of water and then finish them off on the grill. Trimmed and halved, you're left with the perfect receptacle for a dollop of stuffing with the added bonus that almost the entire vegetable is now edible.