White as the sky, roofs and streets of Genoa these days. White as the snow that enveloped Genoa in a whirlwind of icy wind.
The white cardoon with its candor has the taste and shape of winter. The broad, hard and fleshy coats hide a soft heart with a sweet taste that resembles the flavor of artichoke, a close relative.
It’s an ancient vegetable, almost forgotten, perhaps because it requires some time to find them and some patience for cleaning it removing all the filaments, perhaps because with its ungraceful lines it does not meet the aesthetic taste of our days.
I found an ancient recipe of roasted cardoons in one of my beloved traditional Italian Riviera cook book o “Cucina di strettissimo magro”. A cookbook written by a Franciscan friar in 1880 to help common housewives to prepare their menus during Lent period, when eating animal food was completely by the Church. It’s an amusing, healthy cook book full of folks’ culinary wisdom.
The recipe is quite surprising. The cardoons are cleaned, cut into chunks, blanched and then put to gratin in the oven with tomato sauce, breadcrumbs and … (drumroll…) an incredible white sauce made with bread, pine nuts, anchovies, garlic and aromatic herbs. A cream that collects all the ancient flavors of Ligurian cuisine and that at the same time enhances the delicate taste of cardoons.
Do you want to try it too? If so, please then let me know!
- ½ kg of white cardoons cleaned from the hardest outer leaves
- 30 g of bread guts
- 2 salted anchovies
- 25 g of pine nuts
- 1 clean garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon of minced marjoram
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 200 g of tomato sauce
- bread crumbs
- Clean the cardoons from the thickest filaments, cut into 4-5 cm pieces, boil them in salted water for about 15 minutes (they must be soft but still resistant) and then drain.
- Soak the bread guts in the water and then squeeze it well. Clean the anchovies by passing them under running water to remove the salt.
- Put the bread, the salted anchovies, the pine nuts and the garlic clove in the blender. Blend until a smooth and velvety cream is obtained. If necessary add a couple of tablespoons of water to obtain a cream. Add the aromatic herbs then salt to taste.
- Grease a baking dish with oil and line the boiled cardoons. Pour over the white sauce made of bread and pine nuts and the tomato sauce to follow.
- Sprinkle the surface with bread crumbs, grease with a little oil and finish with a sprinkling of pepper.
- Bake at 200°C for 15-20 minutes or until a crispy crust on the surface has formed.
- Serve warm.
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