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Food + Cooking

Seasonal Market: Cardoons


Cardoons have arrived at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, looking, as always, like celery on steroids. In fact, cardoons, an ancient Mediterranean vegetable, have more in common with artichokes. The cardoons I found came from Tairwa Knoll Farms, (about 40 miles east of San Francisco), and, although most shoppers pass them by, chefs in Bay Area restaurants are wild about them. There is nothing mysterious or complicated about cardoons. Select bunches with firm, fresh leaves and lots of available inner stalks. Peel off their fibrous strings and thorny spurs before simmering (45 minutes to an hour). Chef David Tanis of Chez Panisse uses cardoons in a potato leek soup, imbuing it with a flavor that whispers "artichoke." He also makes creamy cardoon gratins and tosses slivers of the inner stalks into a salad with an anchovy vinaigrette. Strips of cardoons turn exceptionally crisp when fried. They can be served alongside other vegetables in a bagna cauda—("hot bath"), the warm Piedmontese anchovy dip served during the olive harvest.