Cardoon & Cherry Tomato Soup
Another cold evening, a slight sense of guilt at having indulged in a little cake this afternoon, (even though I was intending on making an effort to eat leaner)... and a new soup recipe was born!
Having found wonderful, fresh, Sicilian cardoons at the market hall this afternoon, of course it turned out to be a delicious soup too- whilst being totally healthy and lean- and therefore making me feel not only satisfied at having had such a nice supper- but also confident that I will be able to sleep tonight and not be riddled with guilt about the admittedly delicious cake!
Not many things remind me more of Sicily than cardoons, which are a well-loved and main staple food back where my family comes from- even though they remain rather unknown in many other countries, other than Italy, France or Spain... which is a real shame!
If you like artichokes- you should love cardoons!
To make 2 wonderful bowls of soup, I needed just 2 stalks of cardoon, a half stalk of celery, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a little fresh parsley and some Parmesan and olive oil to finish them off nicely before serving.
Being very close relatives to artichokes, although cardoons are basically just leafy stems without the blossoms, their flavor is similar to that of artichokes- but of course they are a lot less troublesome to eat!
That being said- they are probably as troublesome to prepare- but nothing that is too difficult or time-consuming.
Basically, you have to carefully peel away all of the tough sinews, using either a peeler or a knife, but making sure to leave none behind as they will neither be pleasant, chewable... or digestible! But- it is worth the work! One thing you might want to do, if you are going to be preparing a larger quantity, is to wear a pair of rubber gloves as you do so, as the juices of the cardoons can tend to make your hands turn a little "black". Should this happen though- a little lemon juice will soon take care of that and clean you up again!
Not a traditional dish, (I just invented it ), but a totally Sicilian one in every way! It seemed like a bit of a crazy idea at the time... but I shall be making it again for sure- this one is a keeper!
Once the cardoons have been cleaned, simply chop them up coarsely, along with the other vegetables and the parsley stalks.
Pop everything into a saucepan, add enough water to just cover them, season with salt, pepper and fennel seeds and bring to the boil. Reduce the temperature to a gentle simmer and let it bubble away for the next 45 minutes.
And after 45 minutes, everything will be thoroughly cooked-through, soft and tender and delicious, with that gentle hint of bitterness that artichokes have- as well as all of the goodness. These will do your blood pressure, your digestion... and your mood the world of good!
Blend everything thoroughly together- and delight in the lovely orange hue the soup takes on- from the carrot of course, but mostly from those few tomato peels that were in there... And here was I, worrying I was going to have a bland and colorless soup!
I served mine up with some finely chopped and seeded cherry tomato, a sprinkle of chopped parsley, a little fresh pepper, a touch of grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil... and that my friends, made this true perfection!
Rich, simple, delicious and full of the flavors of Sicily- then again, served up in a whole new way... Yep! That's what I like!