As kids my two brothers always turned their noses up at this statement, it sounded an awful punishment, but not for me. I was an experimenter, I liked to eat since a very young age and taste, taste, taste everything.
In the spring time, Cardoni, Cardoon in English, a very long hard stalk vegetable is available in any market, at least in those markets which caters to their ethnic clientele. The younger shoots also called Cardoncelli, not to confuse them with cardoncelli mushrooms, are very tender and less bitter. In any case, young or well-grown, Cardoni is not a well-known vegetable.
It looks like celery, it is very bitter, fibrous, medium green color and the short leaves have a powdery feel to the touch. They are delicious in every cooking solutions, but most people not knowing what it is, get discouraged and leave it on the shelves of the supermarket.
The reason some vegetables taste bitter is due to the presence of phytonutrients that act as powerful antioxidants including some flavonoids and polyphenols. Most of these antioxidant nutrients are bitter. Be prepared, Cardoni are very bitter.
In my Italian culture, bitterness in vegetables is embraced wells for the variety of flavors components and for the perceived medicinal properties. In fact many of the Italian digestive and after dinner drinks are made from artichokes and/or many bitter herbs and vegetables, but please don’t tell me these particular drinks taste like cough drops, it is not true. To retain and enhance the bitterness of some vegetable, we Italians often use the sautéing method in garlic and oil, versus boiling or steaming them.
One way to cook Cardoni is with eggs:
Peel them with a potato peeler to eliminate the stringy fibers, cut them in small pieces, parboil in salted water for 7-8 minutes. Beat a few eggs, season with salt, pepper and Parmigiano cheese, set aside. Sauté Cardoni in garlic and olive oil until translucent, add the beaten eggs. Stir until the eggs become scrambled and well mixed with Cardoni. Adjust season to you liking. A robust glass of red wine is very appropriate.
Baked au gratin is another way to prepare them. Peel, chop and parboil in salted water like in the previous method. Butter a baking dish, arrange the Cardoni parboiled, add beaten eggs, season to your liking. On top add a lot of Parmigiano cheese, breadcrumbs and a few dollops of butter. Bake under the oven grill until the top is brown and the eggs are coagulated.
Of course Cardoni in soups with potatoes, or baked with hot sausages, or lamb are equally a delight to eat . They are fresh and light, too bad they only come out in the Spring.
The tongue has receptors, especially in the back side. Keep the taste buds active by exercising all 50.000 of them with sweet, salty, sour and bitter food.
Don’t try to overcook vegetables to take out the bitterness, Cardoni are supposed to do a good job for you, cleanse the liver and keep you young.
My grandmother was always right. Ciao,
Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos.
She is the author of two published Italian regional cuisine books, available in this site on the Books page, Amazon and in various locations:
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