This hard-to-find, visually-unappealing, finicky vegetable is worth the hunt and the longish preparation.
I had searched for cardoons for years every late fall/early winter, with no success. Albie's Produce in the North End and even Eataly in Boston's Back Bay had failed me.
Then a double-stroke of good luck brought me success! The produce manager at my local Stop & Shop acidentally got a shipment of cardoons from California, and I happened to be at the store on that morning.
I sort-of recognized this long-sought vegetable, but I wasn't sure. Fortunately they were labelled Cardones, the Italian name for the vegetable, so it was easy to connect the name.
The raw vegetable is very bitter, but 30 minutes of boiling extracts most of the bitterness, leaving only a bracing aftertaste that complements a rich buttery or cheesy sauce.
- Preheat oven to 425, and put a large pot of water on to boil
- Wash the cardoons and cut them into 3-inch lengths. Rinse again in cold water. Peel away any big thorns or fibrous parts.
- Boil in a lot of salted water for about 30 minutes, depending on the desired degree of residual bitterness and structure.
- Drain well, then array the pieces in a baking dish coated with olive oil.
- Cover with chopped cold butter, salt, and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake on high heat for about 15 minutes, until the cheese browns. Serve hot.