Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cardoon Pizza

In the Summer of 2008 I took a solo trip to Virginia to finally see Monticello. Of all of Thomas Jefferson's endeavors, my favorite was the vegetable garden. Well, and the figs. I never would have imagined that figs would grow so well there.

I love vegetable gardens anyway, and I especially love gardens that try to grow the same or similar varieties to what would have been there during their historic heyday. In the gift shop I chose culinary souvenirs, a cookbook of Monticello recipes and a few packets of seeds. One was cardoon. We started the cardoons this spring from seed, and transplanted them into the back garden interspersed with our artichokes. They grew like mad (see here), but I wasn't sure how to harvest them. Turns out you can eat both the stalks and the root, so this fall I've been judiciously pruning them so that I can try them out.

The problem is that cardoon is a difficult vegetable. It has extremely sharp needle like thorns along its stalk and is very fibrous. Its also really bitter if you don't blanch it before cooking. Most recipes I've found instruct you to blanch the cardoon, drain it and then boil it again for 3o to 45 minutes. One may have instructed braising, I can't remember. The boiling process destroys the bitter flavor and leaves a mild artichoke flavor behind, which is good. However it also makes for a really soft and somewhat watered down vegetable. I'm not sure its worth it.

In order to maximize the artichoke flavor I first tried to make soup. It was okay, but had a fairly weak flavor. The next time I decided to use cardoon as a topping on pizza. Much better. I still over-cooked the cardoons during the pre-boiling phase, and need to watch them more closely next time. However, so far I think this is the best use.

Pizza ingredients: mozzarella, pesto (from garden but frozen), rosemary, cardoon, yellow potato, caramelized onions.

Pizza just out of the oven. The crust was the same as last time, made from the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle recipe.

On the plate.

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