In a country obsessed with celebrity, New York and Los Angeles are two of the best places for seeing stars in person. In both cities, food markets and restaurants are choice spots for running into someone famous. Besides overhearing a personal conversation, you can also see what the glitterati like to eat.

While at a Whole Foods Market in Manhattan, I once had a chance to watch Clint Eastwood and his wife as they unloaded quarts of soy milk from their cart while talking about their daughter's soccer league.

At a pizzeria in New York, I heard Paul Newman order spinach pizza with whole-wheat crust, an impressively healthy choice.

Best of all, one afternoon in Hollywood, I was seated at a table next to Uma Thurman's. Observing what she ordered, I chose the same dish, marinated fresh artichokes. They were so good that afterwards I persuaded the chef to share his recipe.

If you have only experienced bottled or canned artichokes, you must try the fresh version at least once.

Understanding that you may hesitate to wrestle with fresh artichokes, I've created directions that simplify trimming away their tough outer leaves and spiky tips. Scooping out the fibrous choke in the center is easy because the artichokes are first boiled, then halved lengthwise, exposing a heart so soft all you need is a teaspoon to lift out the choke.

These marinated artichokes are worth the effort to prepare because they absorb the sweet tarragon flavor of their light coating of lemon and olive oil marinade. Their firm texture will be a revelation if you have eaten only commercially-prepared artichoke hearts, which are often mushy as well as vinegary. Marinating fresh artichokes for an extra day or two intensifies their flavor, so I frequently make them well in advance.

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For an extra finishing touch, during the summer, just before serving, I like to set the halved marinated artichokes, cut-side down on a hot grill for three or four minutes. This is just long enough to mark them and to warm them slightly, which brings out their flavor even more.

Marinated Artichokes

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 medium artichokes
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 tsp. dried
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut lengthwise into 4 wedges, for garnish

Directions

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  1. Pull off the tough outer leaves of the artichokes just above the stem. With a knife, trim away remaining tough parts. Using scissors, cut off thorny leaf-tips. Laying each artichoke on its side on a cutting board, cut off top about 1 down from the tip, and all but 1 of the stem.
  2. Boil the artichokes until a knife inserted just above the stem meets only slight resistance, about 15 minutes. Drain the artichokes in a colander, turning them upside down with tongs. When cool enough to handle, halve the artichokes lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the fluffy choke, leaving an open cavity in the center of each artichoke half.
  3. Place the tarragon, lemon juice, salt and a generous pinch of pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the oil, and shake the bag. Add the artichokes and turn bag several times to coat them. Refrigerate the artichokes for 24 hours, turning the bag 3 or 4 times.
  4. Heat a gas or charcoal grill until very hot. Grill the artichokes, cut side down, until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes. Rotate artichokes 90 degrees, and grill 2 minutes more. Place the artichokes on a serving plate, add the lemon wedges, and serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
37 calories
3 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat)
2 g. carbohydrate
less than 1 g. protein
less than 1 g. dietary fiber
151 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Vegetable, 1/2 Fat


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