Even though peak artichoke season runs from March through May, the “globe” variety is grown year-round in Castroville, a Northern California cowtown dubbed “The Artichoke Capital of the World.” Because of its availability, Chef de Cuisine Greg Guevarra of Central Bistro says the crowd-pleasing wood-grilled artichoke ($12; $8 happy hour) is always on the restaurant’s menu.
To make the tasty thistle a little more user-friendly, Guevarra snips off the pointy, sharp edges before cooking. He splits the artichoke, scoops out the fuzzy choke to expose the heart, and steams the green globe until it’s about 90 percent cooked. After the artichoke cools down, he peels back the layers to sprinkle salt throughout the leaves. Guevarra then brushes the artichoke with butter and chars it on a wood-fired grill that’s stoked with oak and pecan to give it a sweet and nutty flavor.
Guevarra says some folks prefer dipping their artichoke leaves and the tender, meaty heart in drawn butter or mayonnaise, but he serves it with a tangy citrus-oregano aioli laced with fresh lemon juice, garlic, mustard and parsley. The grilled artichoke is one of the more popular dishes on the menu, according to Guevarra. “I think it’s a great share plate. It makes things a little bit intimate. Your hands get dirty,” he says. “I like it because it causes people to put their phones down and live in the moment.”
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