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Asteraceae (Artichokes and Cardoons)

             Bill Nyden
             Charles Gifford
             Bill Nyden
             Charles Gifford
             Jessie Strader
             Gerry Strey's URL
             Jessie Strader
             Sara Waterson

Bill Nyden
Artichokes are quite tasty. Also, as a friend once pointed out, an artichoke is a Californian's excuse for eating mayonnaise.

Charles Gifford
I am admittedly somewhat reactionary, but anyone who would insult an artichoke with mayonnaise should be tied to the grating. This Californian only allows the use of melted butter aboard when serving the best of thistles.

Bill Nyden
I'm sorry to disagree, but butter overpowers the artichoke. A freshly made mayonnaise is subtle enough to allow the flavor of the artichoke come through.

Charles Gifford
I see........butter overpowers the artichoke...........uh, problem.......I'll just back away slowly..............

Jessie Strader
An artichoke's raison d'être is to provide a vehicle for dipping sauce -- or gently cradling a poached egg. Mmmmmm. Hollandaise.
Eggs Sardou
This is one of New Orleans' grand egg dishes, created, as were so many classic dishes, at Antoine's Restaurant. Prepare the creamed spinach ahead of time. Use fresh or frozen artichoke bottoms (fresh is always preferable), but make sure they're the best quality. Warm them up and set the pan in a 175F oven; do the same with the creamed spinach. Prepare the hollandaise sauce and set the container in warm water while you poach the eggs. Assemble on warmed plates.
3 cups creamed spinach (recipe below)
6 large (or 12 small) artichoke bottoms
12 poached eggs
3 cups Hollandaise sauce
Creamed Spinach
2 cups fresh spinach, cooked, well-drained and finely chopped
1 cup New Orleans-style Bechamel sauce (recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add the chopped spinach to the bechamel sauce and warm for a few minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Mix in the salt and pepper, then set the pan in a 175F oven to keep warm until final assembly.
Poaching the eggs
Break each egg you want to poach into an individual small cup. In a saute pan bring about 1-1/2 inches of water with 1 teaspoon of vinegar to a simmer. With the water simmering, slice each egg into the water from the cup by lowering the cup almost to the surface of the water and tipping it. Cook each egg for about 2 to 2-1/2 minutes in the simmering water, spooning some of the water over the surface of the egg during cooking. When the egg is cooked, lift out of the water with a mesh or slotted spoon, letting water drain off for a few seconds.
Final assembly of the Eggs Sardou
Put 1/2 cup warm creamed spinach on each warmed plate. Place 1 or 2 warm artichoke bottoms on the bed of spinach, then set 2 poached eggs on the artichoke bottoms. Cover each portion with 1/2 cup hollandaise sauce. Serves 6.
Hollandaise sauce
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons cold water
6 large egg yolks
2 cups clarified butter (or melted butter), warm
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Combine vinegar and peppercorns; reduce in a small saucepan until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add the water to the reduction; blend and strain.
Add the water and reduction to the egg yolks in a large metal bowl over simmering water. Do not allow the bowl to touch the water. Whip the egg yolks with a wire whisk, over the simmering water, until the yolks form ribbons. Gradually add the clarified butter, whipping constantly. Add the lemon juice and cayenne, and adjust the seasonings to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, place the bowl in a pan of warm (not hot) water until served. When ready to use the sauce, beat evenly with wire whisk for 30 seconds until smooth.
Keep the sauce warm in a bain marie (warm water bath) or a Thermos. Do hot hold for more than 90 minutes; if you need to hold the sauce longer, discard the old one after 90 minutes and make more.
Bechamel sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk
4 drops Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over low hear; do not brown. Add the flour gradually, stirring constantly to keep the mixture smooth. Do not allow the flour to cook. Once all the flour is blended in, gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly with a wire whisk to keep the sauce perfectly smooth. Move the whisk around in the pan as your stir to blend the sauce at the bottom and sides. Once all the milk has been added, add the bayleaf and cook over low heat until the sauce thickens, then remove from heat and stir in the Tabasco and salt. Blend thoroughly.

Gerry Strey's URL
Not too long ago there was a thread devoted to Cardoons on the Rec.Food.Cooking newsgroup, in which a number of people said they gathered them wild, some from around the Golden Gate Bridge. I wasn't surprised to read this, because when I was in the US in the winter of 1996, preparing my translation of Pellegrino Artusi's La Scienza in Cucina for publication there wasn't a single cardoon to be found in any of the Philadelphia supermarkets, despite the weather's being perfect for them. Since then I have found them on a couple of supermarket sites, for example Wegman's, which means that they are being introduced to the American market (I assume, given their popularity in northern Italy, especially Piemonte, that they're readily available in the rest of Europe).
In the course of the thread a number of people asked what they are; Elizabeth Faulkner (an RFC regular) described them as "celery on steroids." Nice, and manages to convey the vegetable's slightly menacing air as well -- they're 18 to 22 inch long, pale green to white stalks ribbed like celery, but with sharper edges. Some are straight but the most sought after are curved, a feature that results in their being nicknamed gobbi, or hunchbacks. From a botanical standpoint they're close cousins of the artichoke, but do not produce flowers -- what one eats is the stalk, whose preparation requires a certain amount of care. Cardoons are quite fibrous; the fibers run lengthwise, like those in celery stalks, and must be stripped out. Once they have been cut they darken quickly (like artichokes) unless put in lightly acidulated water.
There wasn't much in the R.F.C thread (at least the part I saw) about what to do with cardoons once you have them. They can be eaten either raw (especially as an antipasto) or cooked. In terms of seasoning, they're rather sweet, a characteristic that is generally balanced through the use of anchovies, cheese, or white sauces.
A last, and very important point: Cardoons are a winter vegetable. Though they continue to grow into the spring, spring warmth makes them unpleasantly bitter, and they can also become woody.

Jessie Strader
Artichokes and cardoons are both thistles. The globe artichoke that we love to slather in butter and aoili is Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus L., sometimes simply listed as C. scolymus (just a fancier version of the C. cardunculus L. that is the Cardoon).

Sara Waterson
I have consulted my esteemed Grandfather, the Doctor's, favourite garden book, "The Culture of Vegetables and Flowers", published by Sutton's Seeds in conjunction with Simpkin Marshall in 1942, so during the war when it was imperative to grow as much as possible: "Grow for Victory" as the posters put it. I see it was given him on his birthday, Feb 26th, in 1943. He had just retired from his general practice [though he did continue in the largely honorary post of Police Surgeon of Nottinghamshire until the mid 1950s].
Which reminds me: the book also tells you how to grow and blanch the cardoon, a relative of the artichoke family and very popular in Italy. A kind of thistle, where you have to bind up the leaves in sacking round and round the stalk, to blanch them: they too have more or less vanished now - a shame as they're delicious, especially braised with butter. Some friends planted some a couple of years ago and were very grateful for the loan of Grampa's "Garden Bible" as their cardoons took over the garden!