This is the third year we’ve been a part of the Westfield CSA (community supported agriculture) group. Since our farmer also delivers to a few local farmers markets, we think his shares are pretty representative of what other organic farmers will be bringing to their markets this week.
This week we got chili peppers, mustard greens, radishes, celery root, spinach, white potatoes, red cabbage and cardoons.
Cardoons? What the heck are those? My CSA partner, Cathy, calls them mutant celery stalks. I think they look like celery mixed with cactus. They are a lot of work to prepare. You have to peel and trim them heavily but apparently it’s worth it.
Here’s a recipe that I’m going to try with my stalks from SeriousEats.com:
2 bunches cardoons, 3 to 4 large stalks on each
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
A pinch of nutmeg
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup homemade, coarse, dried breadcrumbs
A handful of fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F and bring 3 to 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.
Have ready a large bowl of cold water, into which the juice and squeezed halves of a medium lemon have been added.
Working with one stalk at a time, strip the cardoons of leaves and use a sharp peeler to remove any tough, stringy outer parts. Cut them into 5 to 6 inch lengths and then cut the lengths into 2 or 3 strips lengthwise. Add the cardoons to the acidulated water, immersing them.
Add the cardoons to the boiling water; you can add some of the acidulated water and the lemon halves if you wish. Cook the cardoons until they just begin to turn tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the cardoons to a shallow dish, then lay them on paper towels to drain and cool.
While the cardoons are cooling, make the béchamel. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter until it bubbles slightly. Add the flour at once and stir with a wooden smooth until smooth and bubbling; continue to cook over medium heat, until the mixture turns a pale, sandy color, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan to scalding. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture, 1/2 a cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook gently for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside.
Place the breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the parsley leaves, 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese, and the optional red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse to chop the parsley and combine the ingredients. Season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium baking dish, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and brush evenly around the pan to coat it. Dribble 1/3 of the béchamel evenly over the bottom on the dish and add enough of the cardoons to cover the bottom of the dish. Generously dribble some of the béchamel over the top of the cardoons and sprinkle evenly with some of the grated cheese. Continue to layer the cardoons, béchamel and grated cheese, finishing the last layer with béchamel and an even coating of the seasoned breadcrumbs.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the entire dish is bubbling, golden and crispy on top.
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