Sunday, 30 October 2011

Stalking the Sicilian Way...

Frittata di Cardi con Pomodori Secchi e Parmigiano
Cardoon Frittata with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese

I couldn't believe my luck yesterday, when my favorite merchant there, a lovely Sicilian lady, handed me over a wonderful specimen of a "Cardoon"- or Cardi as they are called in Italy. This beauty was maybe a foot and a half long and weighed about a pound and a half!

Cardi, are relatives of the artichoke, only they do not produce that wonderful flower, they just grow as long, thick stalks, with thorny edges- pretty imposing looking they are! Now... these devils are quite a bit of work to prepare! First things first- you need to strip off those thorny edges- sometimes they are very fine and almost invisible... but they are there and they will stick in your fingers if you are not careful! Soon as the thorns are gone, you can start stripping away the tough sinewy outer layer. What you need to do is similar to the prep work for celery or rhubarb... only there are a lot more sinews here!

Once the cardi are all cleaned up, chop them into 2-3" strips and halve these down the middle so they are narrower and will cook quicker. Because they DO take quite a while to cook- anything between 45 minutes and an hour in lightly salted water.

Once the cardi are tender, drain them and allow them to cool off. In the meantime, beat 3 eggs and season them with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Traditionally you would dip the cardi in a simple egg and flour batter and fry them- but of course I wanted to try something more fun. Pour half of the egg mixture into the pan and fry them until they set. Remove from the heat and arrange the cardi decoratively on top. Now pour the remaining egg into the spaces between the cardi so that everything gets held together. Before this egg sets, sprinkle some thin strips of sun dried tomato, a little finely chopped mint and a handful of finely chopped parsley. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, salt, pepper, a little cayenne and finish off under the broiler. The combination of the artichoke flavored cardi and egg is actually amazingly good! Give it a go- you may just turn your back on artichokes from now on- as these are, despite the prep-work, a whole lot nicer! And fear not- I have more cardoon recipes yet to come!

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