Tuesday, January 22, 2013

two cardoons

One of the first dishes I made in this project was a gratin of cardoons. It seemed rather exotic to me at the time. (Two years ago? Really?) I had never had a cardoon at that point, and was excited to try it. It looked like a big head of celery, and word was that it tasted like artichoke, with which it shares lineage in some way.

The cool thing was that it was a fairly exotic ingredient that I had pretty easy access to. There was a little mom-and-pop vegetable stand in Clearwater that I frequented that I knew carried it. When I went to buy cardoons to make that dish, they only had one head of them, and it was sort of grayish-brown. Deep down, I suspected it should be green, but I was excited at that point. So I bought it and made the dish. It came out fine, but didn't really blow me away. I always sort of wondered if it was because I needed better cardoons.

Fast-forward to the present. I'm not in Florida anymore, and I can't get to the little produce stand in Clearwater. Since moving to D.C., I've found that the farmers markets and specialty stores are far superior to what we had in Florida. But I've also found that that's a good thing, because the typical, everyday supermarkets here kind of suck. One of the criteria that we used in picking our apartment was it's proximity to a Safeway, which is right across the street. But I don't love it. The store brands I've had there are terrible and the state of the meat case makes me sad. Produce is OK, and I'll buy national-brand staples. So, basically it's good in a pinch, but makes me wish I had a Publix.

The closest thing we have to a Publix is Wegman's, which actually might be better than Publix. But the closest one is in Landover, Md., 10 miles away. And here, 10 miles is a long ways away. But sometimes I go out there when I want to remember what a decent supermarket is like, and on one such trip, I found cardoons. This was a big deal, because I knew they were in season, but I didn't know where or when I might find them, and I knew I had two dishes left that called for them.

The first dish is perciatelli with cardoons, garlic and pecorino. The great thing was that the initial cooking of the cardoon was the same for each dish. (Actually, it was also the same in the gratin. If I had been smart, I just would have done all three dishes at the same time back then.)

While I was at Wegman's, I went over to the pasta aisle to pick up some perciatelli. Perciatelli is a long, thin, tubular pasta which looks like this … 

... and which Wegman's doesn't carry (just as we were starting to get along so well). But it had bucatini, which is exactly the same thing until someone tells me differently. So I bought it.

Then I felt guilty. What if it is different, and i just totally messed up the dish? Not really, but I went to A. Litteri, an Italian specialty store in the warehouse district of D.C. They had perciatelli. Controversy averted.

The other dish with cardoons was a contorni of cardoons and lemon. Here's what that looked like:

The dominant flavor here was the preserved lemon. We had it as a side dish with a steak. Good stuff. 

Up next: Catching up

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