In a recent post of mine (Local Foods), I mentioned a vegetable – the cardoon – that I had picked up at my local farmer’s market. One of my clients, Janice, responded with the question, “what the heck is a cardoon?” So I’m going to share with you all what the heck it is!
A cardoon is a member of the artichoke family, and the flavor is a cross between artichoke hearts and celery (perhaps hard to imagine, but if you get the chance to try them, you’ll know what I mean). They are relatively hard to find here in the US, outside of farmers markets, but they’re quite popular in Italy. If you get the chance to buy them at your local market, snatch them up! They’re a delicious rarity and make a fun conversation piece at dinner parties.
The easiest way to prepare them is to strip the leaves off of the stalks, use a knife to remove the tough fibers that run down the cardoon lenghtwise, chop into 2-inch pieces, and then steam or braise them. Chef Mario Batali claims that the cardoon is one of his favorite vegetables, due to its “very sexy flavor.” And one of my favorite Batali restaurants in Manhattan, Otto, serves them with a delectable “bagna cauda” sauce (an olive oil, anchovy, and garlic dressing that works with almost any veggie). Click here for a bagna cauda recipe.