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Grilled Baby Artichokes and Shrimp with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Baby artichokes……these things are so darn cute!!!  I ran across them at the local grocery store the other day all packaged up so nice and pretty…..9 of them for $3.99.  Honestly I don’t even know if that is a good deal or not because I have never bought or cooked these little guys before but I just had to buy them because they were so lovely.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but I just loved seeing them every time I opened my refrigerator.  A nicely cooked artichoke at a fine restaurant with a great aioli is, to me, one of life’s great pleasures — it’s one of those things that just tastes one thousand times better in a restaurant than at home.  I didn’t want to cook or serve the artichokes with any type of creamy mayo based aioli or sauce because one of my daughters gags at the site of most dairy products (and I really wanted her to try these yummy little prehistoric looking veggies).  So I made a lemon vinaigrette (surprise, surprise…by now, you may have realizes that I have a minor obsession with lemon!!!) and tossed it with the grilled baby artichokes and grilled shrimp and served it over whole wheat orzo.  It was a hit for the most part.  The flavor was great but I was hesitant to peel down enough leaves from the artichokes (I wanted to savor every bit of it) so some of the leaves on our artichokes were too chewy. Not to worry because that problem is easily remedied.  You must peel down more leaves than you think so that when finished, the entire artichoke is tender.  So my warning would be to buy a few more of the baby artichokes than you originally think you will need.  A fun and different meal indeed!  Omit the shrimp and this makes a perfect side dish too.

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Grilled Baby Artichokes and Shrimp with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

9-12 baby artichokes

1.5 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined

3/4 cup olive oil, divided

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp black olives, chopped (could substitute capers)

salt and pepper

1 lb whole wheat orzo (to keep it “Clean,” omit pasta or sub Italian farro, quinoa or other whole grain)

parmesan cheese

fresh parsley

Directions:

Prepare artichokes — peel back leaves until you get the light green/yellow colored tender leaves.  Cut off the stem at the bottom and cut off about 1/3 of the top part of the artichoke. Do not be too conservative with the leaves or the amount that you cut off the top or you will end up with some that are uneatable (I speak from experience!). In a large sauce pan, bring 1-2 quarts water to a boil and cook prepared artichokes for 7-10 minutes or until tender (easy to pierce with a fork).  Meanwhile, in large bowl whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 Tbsp dijon mustard, chopped black olives, salt and pepper; set aside.  When artichokes are done, drain and immerse them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  When cool, cut in half.  Brush cut half with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Prepare shrimp — clean and towel dry.  Arrange on skewers.  Brush with olive oil and salt and pepper.

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Prepare grill to 350-400 degrees.  Note: I cooked my artichokes first and then my shrimp b/c I didn’t have enough room on the grill for both.  Place artichokes cut side down on grill (I used a grill pan but it really wasn’t necessary b/c the artichokes did not fall apart).  Cook for 5-7 minutes or until brown on cut side.  Cook shrimp skewers for 2-3 minutes per side or until done (depending on size of shrimp).  Toss grilled artichokes and shrimp with the lemon dijon vinaigrette and allow a few minutes for flavors to meld.  Serve over whole wheat orzo, top with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, lemon and salt and pepper to taste and a side of crusty wheat bread.  *To make it a “clean meal,” serve over a whole grain like barley or farro and eliminate the bread.

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For side dish of just artichokes, let artichokes sit in lemon dijon vinaigrette for up to an hour to absorb flavor (or chill and serve later cold).

Adapted from What’s Cooking in America website.