cardoons!

Cardoons are one of the few vegetables harvested in winter in the northeast.The edible part of the plant – the stalk – looks like celery but tastes like an artichoke. It belongs to the thistle family and is rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium.I don’t usually bake vegetables, and I almost never bake them with cheese. But I did today, because I wanted the dish to appeal to my children. It worked!

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serves 4

INgredients

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4 cardoon stalks

1 leek

1 lemon

3 Tablespoons EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

2 pinches sea salt

small wedge of parmigiana cheese (about .2 of a pound)

Process

The key to making delicious cardoons is cleaning them properly.Shave the leaves and any thorny parts from the stalks.Then clean them as you would celery,removing tough outer “threads”.

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Place the cleaned cardoons in a bowl of water with two lemon halves and their juice. This acidulated water will keep the cardoon stalks from turning brown.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the cardoon stalks in and boil them for about 30 minutes. This tenderizes them.

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Remove them from the water and allow them to cool. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the leek.Cut the roots off and slit the leek in half, lengthwise.This allows you to see any soil that may have accumulated in between the fine layers inside the leek.

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Wash it well.Then slice each half into very thin half-moons.

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Warm a cast iron or stainless steel skillet Add one tablespoon of the olive oil and the leeks.Use cooking chopsticks to sauté them until they begin to wilt.Add a pinch of sea salt.

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When they are slightly browned,remove them from the pan In the meantime, slice the parmigiana cheese into very thin 2-inch-wide slivers. Now layer the dish.Spread half of the sautéed leeks on the bottom of a medium sized baking dish. Cut half of the cardoons to fit the dish, and layer them on top of the leeks. Drizzle one Tablespoon of the olive oil on top,

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sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt, and cover with one half of the cheese slivers.

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Repeat, layering the remaining leeks, cardoons,

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olive oil, sea salt and cheese. Bake at 350°F  for about 30 minutes, or until cheese melts and the sweet,creamy smell pervades the kitchen. Cut into squares and serve hot.

©Nancy Wolfson-Moche 2013