Growing up, I wasn’t a particularly picky eater. Like many kids, I just didn’t like vegetables. I would always grumble at my mom’s insistence that I eat something green and/or leafy. Thank goodness she never made me sit at the dinner table until I finished all my vegetables because I would most likely have sat there until I turned 18. I’m proud to say that I’ve come a long way since then. I am certainly much better at eating vegetables now. In fact, I enjoy eating a variety of them and even grow some in my garden.
One of the few vegetables I did eat as a child was artichokes. However, I have to admit that I was initially drawn to artichokes more for the mayonnaise and soy sauce dip that my mom served with them, rather than their actual flavor. I loved (and still love) mayonnaise and eating artichokes meant that I had an excuse to eat as much of it as I wanted. I would get in trouble for eating mayo straight out of the jar, which grossed out the rest of my family (and many of you who just read that, I’m sure!). My mom, who at first pleasantly surprised that I volunteered to make my own lunch, quickly discovered the real reason – I was making tuna or egg salad sandwiches with equal parts of mayo and tuna/egg. I think she made me a peanut butter sandwich for a month straight to ween me from my mayonnaise addiction.
You can probably imagine my elation when I discovered that I could make my own mayonnaise, and that it tasted even better than the kind in the jar. That was one happy day! Eventually I discovered and started making a fancier French version, aioli, and I learned that Europeans liked to dip their fries in it. Well, you can only imagine how happy I was that day!
Today’s recipe for aioli is made with a batch of shishito peppers I picked from my garden. I got the idea for the aioli from a local restaurant that served shishito pepper aioli with its calamari, and I knew right away that I had to make it. It’s rich and tangy, and a perfect compliment to the smokiness of the grilled artichokes.
Grilled Artichokes with Shishito Pepper Aioli
Yields 4 servings
2 globe artichokes
8-10 whole black peppercorns
pinch of salt
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic peeled
half a lemon
olive oil, as needed
shishito pepper aioli, for dipping (recipe follows)
Rinse artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off lower petals and cut off bottom stems. Cut about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke. For a nice presentation, trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Cut artichokes in half lengthwise and scrape out the fuzzy chokes and any purple-tipped petals.
Place artichokes in boiling water seasoned with black peppercorns, salt, bay leaves, garlic, and half a lemon. (I squeeze the lemon juice and then throw in the half a lemon in the pot.) Cook until the bottoms of the artichokes are tender and the petals pull off easily. Remove from water and drain well.
Brush artichokes with a little olive oil. Place cut side down on a hot grill and cook lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn artichokes over and brush with more olive oil. Grill until petals are lightly charred, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Artichokes may be served either hot or room temperature with shishito pepper aioli.
Shishito Pepper Aioli
Yields 1/2 cup
1 large egg yolk
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil
1/4 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons puréed shishito peppers
2 generous dashes of cayenne pepper, or more, to taste
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In the work bowl of a blender, combine the egg yolk, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and water and blend.
Slowly drizzle in grapeseed oil, 1 teaspoonful at a time, until sauce is thickened and emulsified. Whisking constantly, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
Stir in the puréed shishito peppers and the cayenne. Season aioli with lemon juice, pepper, and more salt, if needed.
*RAW EGG WARNING
Use caution in consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, use pasteurized eggs or use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.
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