Think of celery on steroids! That’s what cardoons resemble!
This winter vegetable which ranges in colour from white to pale green has edible ribbed stalks with an inedible flowering head. Their mild artichoke flavour is incredibly delicious!
A simple cooking process ensures a tender and delicious vegetable. Cut off the base and all leaves, taking care to not get pricked by the spiny edges. The stalks are then cut into pieces with lengths depending on their intended recipe. Placing them in water with lemon juice or vinegar will prevent any discolouration while you work through the stalks. It’s important to boil the pieces for about 20 minutes or until tender. Low in calorie and high in vitamins and minerals, cardoons complement many dishes or can be the featured ingredient as in this recipe, the cardoon soup.
This recipe is from my mother-in-law who traditionally makes this soup to celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the day after Christmas. With its richly flavoured stock made from poultry and veal, the ratio of cardoon pieces to mini veal meatballs is always a topic of debate at the dinner table. There are never enough meatballs! The only other essential ingredient is cheese. Nuggets of mozzarella cheese and a heavy sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano add a gooeyness that only real cheese lovers appreciate.
If you’re lucky enough to find fresh cardoons at your local grocery store, consider making large batches of soup to freeze. That way, you can enjoy this uncommon vegetable throughout the year.
If you like, you can add a little diced carrot and tomato pieces to the broth for colour.