Cardoncie' in brodo
Preparation - Difficult
Serves 4 - 6
In February, when spiny clumps of wild cardoons dot the fields and hedgerows of the Massemia Cirillo in the rolling grasslands south of Foggia, Gigliola Bacile uses the wild greens to make a robust soup that is hearty enough for a main course at supper. Traditionally, the soup was made with lamb or mutton broth, with bits of the meat adding sustenance; this lighter version uses vegetable broth, and just a little chopped ham at the end. This, with the beaten-egg stracciatelle (rags), gives the soup extra body.
Wild cardoons require laborious cleaning to rid them of their spines and tough filaments, but, as far as I can tell, they are unobtainable in America anyway. Garden-grown cardoons can be found in ethnic or health-food markets and are a fine substitute when you can get them; use only the thick ribs, stripping away the leaves and chopping the ribs in short lengths. Elizabeth Schneider, in her excellent Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, says that cardoons should be precooked in a vast amount of boiling water for 15 to 30 minutes, until tender, then drained and used in the recipe.
Since artichokes and cardoons are closely related and have a similar flavor, I have also made this soup very successfully with artichoke hearts - once, indeed, with canned artichoke hearts.
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, including green tops, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
4 cups light Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth
salt to taste
2 lbs cardoons, cleaned and trimmed, or 2 pounds artichokes, trimmed to hearts and quartered
1 small dried hot red chile pepper, optional
1 cup very flavorful baked ham or mortadella sausage cubes
1 egg for every 2 people served
In a heavy soup kettle over medium-low heat, sauté the garlic and onion very gently in the oil until they are soft but not brown.
Add the celery and parsley and continue cooking another 5 minutes or until the celery starts to soften.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, mixing well. Then add the stock. Cover the pan and bring the soup to a boil.
Taste, adding salt if desired, then cover again and leave the soup to simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Coarsely chop the trimmed cardoons or artichoke hearts and add to the soup.
Cover again and simmer about 45 minutes.
Add the hot red pepper, if desired, and the ham and let cook another 5 minutes, or just long enough to develop the flavors.
The soup may be prepared ahead of time up to this point.
Beat the eggs in a small bowl.
Bring the soup to a very slow simmer and slowly pour the beaten eggs into it, stirring them into the soup with a fork. The eggs will cook and scramble into stracciatelle (rags), which is what they're supposed to do.
Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
VARIATION: If you want to make a more traditional version of this old fashioned soup, first make a lamb broth, using very meaty bones - breast of lamb, if you can get it, is an excellent cut for broth-along with the usual flavorings (onion, garlic, carrot, parsley, and herbs if you like). Strain and degrease the broth and use it in place of the chicken or vegetable broth in the recipe. Pick the meat off the soup bones, chop it fine, and add to the soup in place of the ham.
Flavors of Puglia
Nancy Harmon Jenkins