“What is this?” asked the puzzled cashier at Publix holding up the cardoon I had found in the produce section. “Is it a kind of celery?” she asked. “Actually,” I replied, “it’s in the artichoke family”. In fact, cardoons taste very much like the best part of an artichoke. They are typically a late fall vegetable, and usually turn up around this time in our supermarket. I remember my mother used to make them when I was growing up. I was actually not very fond of them because they had a slightly bitter flavor. Of course, most children won’t like anything remotely bitter, but I’ve discovered how to eliminate that bitterness, and our kids, who love artichokes, also love cardoons.
First, choose the lightest colored cardoon, the greener it is, the more likely it will be bitter. Secondly, peel the back of the stalks before cooking them. Be careful, because a cardoon is a thistle, and just like an artichoke it has thorns, albeit quite small. They are located on the edges of the stalks and need to be trimmed. Also, cardoons need to boil 30-40 minutes until very tender.
Once cooked, they can be gratinéed, as in the recipe below, or simply dressed with some salt, olive oil, and red wine vinegar and served cold.
From How to Cook Italian by Giuliano Hazan