I am a ruiner. As in, I ruin things. Usually with just a few well-placed complaints. It can be seen as a talent. Or a buzzkill. All depends on your perspective.
I'm starting to think I might need to keep this tendency in check. Just a bit. Okay, maybe a lot a bit.
For instance, we got some Chinese takeout recently. And ate it on a table outdoors at sunset at this super scenic area. It was gorgeous and romantic.
Until Seth asked me how I liked the food. My response was ehhhh.
I mean, yes, I guess I was being truthful (the food wasn't bad, and some dishes were pretty interesting, but it could have been better), but the truth isn't always the most beautiful. It won't always bring the most happiness. Instead I was the person bringing the party down. My complaining really served no purpose but to sap all the romance from the scene. Would it have killed me to just say that I love it?
So I need to work on this whole complaining thing. Just a little.
This month's Creative Cooking Challenge comes at the perfect time. The topic is, "potluck picnic." And picnics, being all outdoors and stuff, can be a bit of a bugaboo. Wonderful in theory, but a goldmine for complaints about bugs, food that shouldn't be cold, food that shouldn't be warm, etc.
That said, we are preparing grilled artichoke quarters with an anchovy garlic drizzle. It may seem like a strange choice for a picnic, but if one does the prepping and boiling of the artichoke before arriving, as well as the mixing of the drizzle, one only needs to grill the quarters on site, and finish them with the drizzle, Parmesan and parsley. Freshly grilled, they should be hot enough to melt the cheese and make up for the long trip. And who doesn't like grilling at the park? Plus the drizzle has a crazy amount of flavor. Hopefully, they'll keep my whiny side in check...
2 artichokes (will make 8 quarters)
2 ounces anchovies packed in olive oil, be sure to reserve the olive oil from the package
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground hazelnuts
Parmesan cheese wedge and microplane, for serving
parsley leaves, for serving
For the anchovy drizzle (at home):
Pour the olive oil from the anchovies into a small pot. Mince the anchovies and add those in. Stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil, the minced garlic, and the vinegar. Over low heat, let the mixture come together for 5-10 minutes, until the anchovies have begun to melt into the mixture a bit. Take off heat and stir in the hazelnuts.
For the artichokes (at home):
Prep we will do at home. To start, set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Using kitchen shears, trim off pointy tips of artichoke leaves. Using a large, sharp knife, cut off the top ½-inch of the artichokes and the end of each stem. Carefully remove any small leaves attached directly to the stem. Wash artichokes thoroughly under cold water to clean them off, and dry with paper towel.
For this part, you will want to do one artichoke at a time. Take your big sharp knife, coat it with lemon juice from one of your lemon wedges, turn an artichoke upside down, so the stem is sticking up and slice it straight down in half, and then in half again to make quarters. Immediately rub down all cut surfaces with lemon wedges to prevent discoloration. Take a serrated spoon, or regular spoon, and coat it with lemon juice. Scoop out the fuzzy choke in the center, as well as the inner, purple leaves. Make sure you get all of the fuzzy part out, and liberally rub down the top of the heart with lemon to prevent discoloration. I also try to cut any remaining prickly points off of the inner curled leaves to prevent poking the eater. Repeat for other quarters.
Once water is boiling, place artichokes in, cut side down, and cover with a clean cheese cloth, dish cloth, or cloth napkin. This will soak up water and ensure the artichokes stay wet while cooking. Cover pot with lid and cook about 9 minutes. When they are ready, they should be just soft enough to push a fork into the inside of the stem, but no softer. The outside of the stem should still be a bit firm. Carefully remove artichokes and place in a bowl of ice water to halt their cooking. Once they have cooled, thoroughly drain the water out and place in a Tupperware container to bring to the grill site.
For the artichokes (at grill site):
If using a charcoal grill, stack and light charcoal according to your favorite method. We like using a large chimney starter. The charcoal will be flaming and smoking for around 20-45 minutes. Once 90 percent of the charcoal is ashed over, spread evenly onto charcoal rack, and place grates. After grates have warmed up (5 minutes), scrape them clean using a grill brush.
Once your grill is ready to use, brush the artichokes with olive oil and black pepper. Adjust heat to high (350-400°). If grill grates are cast iron, rub them down briefly using a few paper towels or a cheese cloth dipped in canola oil. Place artichokes on grates, cut side down. To help them stay oriented correctly, squeeze the quarters up next to each other for added support. Close top and wait 3-5 minutes. Once the side making contact is adequately charred, brush the remaining cut side with olive oil and turn over onto the un-charred side. Remove from heat once both cut sides have a light char.
Drizzle the artichokes with anchovy mixture, then sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.