Cardoons are in season here in Italy and I just got these fresh from the organic farmer’s market. But what the heck are cardoons you ask? Well, they look a lot like celery stalks with a chalkier appearance, yet they taste like artichokes and their flowers are edible, however usually just the stems are used. They tend to grow in dry desert like climates and are in season in the summer months. Cardoons are high in potassium and vitamin C, while being low in calories and cholesterol.
I had never had them so I really had no idea how to make them or what they even taste like so I did a bit of research online to see what sort of recipes came up. First off, I had to look for them in Italian because there was not much of anything in English (which makes me think that they are not so easy to find in the U.S. or other countries??) so I looked in Italian. The majority of the recipes I found were for cardoons au gratin, which is traditionally a very heavy thing here, heavy cream, butter, flour, cheese, and bread crumbs on top. I thought I would play it safe since it was the first time making them so I decided to veganize the recipes I found for cardoons au gratin (cardi gratinati). For an absolute first time experience, it turned out really well, super delish! If you can’t get cardoons where you are, feel free to try with other veggies you have available to you (I think fennel would be especially good like this).
3 bunches of cardoons
1 c. cashews
1 garlic clove
2 sun dried tomatoes (1 full one)
1 bunch of basil leaves
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tbs lemon juice
dried herbs (what you have on hand)
1. Soak the cashews in hot water for at least 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime prepare the cardoons by cleaning them well and removing their leaves. Chop them into long 4-5 inch stalks.
3. Boil the cardoons for about 45 minutes (I boiled them for 30 and realized it was not enough). They are very tough and need to be boiled for a while before being baked.
4. Blend the cashews with the other ingredients (garlic, nutritional yeast, sun dried tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper). Add in the soaking water and more if needed to reach the right consistency, which should be creamy and thick but not too thick, you want it to get in all the nooks and crannies. I know I should measure this stuff, but I really eyeball it when it comes to getting the right thickness – I used the soaking water, which was enough to cover the cashews plus about 1/4 of cup.
5. Arrange the boiled cardoons in a casserole dish, layering them if needed depending on the size of your dish. Spread the cashew sauce over them. * Top with the panko crumbs and sprinkle with whatever dried herbs you have (I used thyme, oregano, marjoram, chives). Drizzle olive oil on top.
6. Bake in the oven at 250 for about 20 minutes.
* I didn’t put an amount for the panko crumbs or the herbs as it depends on the size of your dish. Just make to cover the sauce well and sprinkle enough herbs on to your liking.