Magazine article Sunset

Renaissance Vegetable

Magazine article Sunset

Renaissance Vegetable

Article excerpt

If you've read Food Guide over the years, you've met my Italian mother-in-- law, who lived on an artichoke ranch and cooked from the garden. Her culinary heritage was grounded in Tuscany. So was her garden, where cardoons (in Italian, cardoni; in French, cardons) flourished. Cardoons, which look like overgrown celery bunches, are a close relative of the artichoke, but it's the large stalks, not the thistlelike flower buds, that are edible. The plants grow in the cool season wherever artichokes do; you'll find them now in markets that feature Mediterranean vegetables.

Cardoons are sadly ignored these days, except by a shrinking number of cooks who know how to deal with them. I've read recipes so complicated that a novice would be discouraged. But my mother-in-law's approach was straightforward: She went to the garden and cut a few broad, silvery stalks. Back in the kitchen, she rinsed the individual stalks and trimmed off the leaves and any discolored sections. Then, with a sharp knife (a peeler tends to clog), she cut the coarse, stringy fibers off the stalk backs, discarded any pithy portions, and cut the vegetable into large pieces or 1/2-inch dice. …

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