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Seriously Simple: Spring ahead with this tasty dish

By Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Content Agency on

Artichokes are both delicious and fun to eat. And March is the start of artichoke season, so consider cooking up a few whole ones to serve chilled, warm or even grilled.

Make sure to select globe artichokes that have tight, compact heads and tiny thorns. Don't worry if they are a little brown, which sometimes comes from a light frost before harvesting. You will usually find that these are the tastiest and have large hearts.

While thornless artichokes are available, I find them to be less flavorful with little meat on the leaves and a small heart (my favorite part).

Cooked whole artichokes, with their delicate, mild flavor, are the perfect vehicle for a variety of sauces. The aioli is a garlic mayonnaise flavored with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. Try this tested favorite and then branch out with some different flavors.

For variety, make a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt, or try mayonnaise enriched with grilled sweet peppers or tomato, garlic and smoked chili powder. If you are pressed for time, use fresh ranch dressing and drizzle it with balsamic syrup or vinegar. Watch how fast those leaves disappear.

As a native California artichoke eater, here are my tips on how to enjoy your artichoke:

 

1. Pull the petals off one by one and dip the base into the sauce

2. Remove the inner choke thistle, cut the heart into pieces, dip and enjoy.

If you want to grill artichokes for an unusual smoky-sweet flavor, cook them 10 minutes less then directed, cool and cut in half, scooping out the hairy inner choke and the thorny inner leaves. Brushed with olive oil, place the artichoke halves on a medium-high heat grill and grill for about 4 minutes on a side or until there are grill marks on the artichokes.

At the table, provide a few bowls for guests to discard their leaves. I like to offer a variety of sauces so that everyone finds something to their taste.

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