What Can You Do Do Do With a Cardoon?
Cardoon is a green, leafy, weed-like vegetable with a crisp stalk.
Yesterday, Sarah DiGregorio provided a guide to the vegetables commonly available at this time of the year in local farmers' markets. Today, here's a report on a vegetable that was harder to find: cardoon.
The business end of the cardoon is the stem -- throw the leaves away.
Known as cardoni in Italy, this stalky and leafy vegetable is much appreciated in Spain, France, and Italy, where it can be found growing wild. In fact, it looks like a weed, with a taste that the Food Lover's Companion describes as "a cross between celery, artichoke, and salsify."
The vegetable grows from late winter to early spring, and the specimens I scored at the Union Square stall of Gorzynski Ornery Farm, from Narrowsburg, NY, were inexpensive at $2.50 for a big bunch. They were also a little bitter, ruling out eating them raw, like celery.
Next: Recipe for cardoon gratin
Tah-Dah. The cardoon gratin. And was it good!
Accordingly, I went to Plan B, which is making a delicious gratin. I cut the stalks into small pieces, discarding the leaves, tossed the chopped stems in enough flour to barely coat, dotted them with butter, poured milk in the casserole to cover the vegetable, then sprinkled the the top with grated cheese, in this case piave vecchio. (Not a good recipe to waste your 15-month-old red-cow parmesan on.) Optionally, you can also shake on some finely minced chives, flowering garlic chives, or chopped scallions for extra flavor, or some additional bread crumbs for extra crunch.
After 30 minutes in a hot (400 degree) oven, the top came out bubbly and brown, the cheese, milk, and flour absorbed into a rubbery, and the gratin every bit as good as a gratin can be. And all the bitterness had departed from the vegetable.
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