Cardoons are one of the vegetables very popular in Mediterranean countries but sadly neglected by Americans. They are a member of the thistle family, related to artichokes. The thistle that it produces is not edible, but the stalks, which look like giant celery with thin, feathery silver leaves along the suede-like stalks, are delicious and have a flavor similar to artichoke, though slightly sweeter. In Italy, cardoons are served raw and cooked, but the variety found here are too large to eat raw. Ours need to be pre-cooked. In this recipe they are paired with their kin – the artichoke.
N.B. Artichokes and cardoons discolor if exposed to air after peeling or trimming. A flour and water mixture called a “bianco” prevents them from discoloring during trimming and cooking. To make a “bianco”, stir together 1/4 C. flour, juice of 2 lemons, and 1/2 C. cool water in a non-aluminum pot until smooth. Add enough cool water to fill the pot half-way and add the squeezed lemon halves. As you trim the vegetables, add them directly to the bianco.
1 med. cardoon head, trimmed of the bitter side leaves, zip off the strings as you might do
with celery, cut into 3 in. pieces
6 artichokes, trimmed, cut in half, choke removed and discarded
1/4 C. flour
2 lemons cut in half
2 T. Salt
6 T. butter
1 – 2 C. chicken or vegetable broth (brodo)
1/2 C. breadcrumbs
1/2 C. Parmigiano
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 C. mint, chopped
After trimming and working with the cardoon and artichoke add it to a “bianco”. Heat the “bianco” to boiling over high heat. Add salt. Boil each until tender.
Artichokes about 10-15 min. Cardoons about 30-45 min. Drain in colander.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a baking dish and arrange the cardoons and artichokes in overlapping rows in the baking dish. Pour the brodo over the vegetables.
Mix together the remaining butter, breadcrumbs, garlic, mint, and cheese and dot the top of the casserole with this mixture. Bake until the top is browned, about 20 min. Serve hot.