I’m always excited to try a new vegetable, and I’d been noticing cardoons for sale at Russo’s, where I buy most of my groceries. Cardoons look sort of like a big bunch of celery, though they’re actually more closely related to artichokes and thistles. Apparently the ancient Romans ate them fairly often; Apicius has several recipes (the ancient Romans also had mayonnaise, but that’s a different post!).
Well, let me tell you, they’re a whole heck of a lot of work to prepare! First you have to separate the stalks, like you would with a bunch of celery. Only the stalks are about 4 times as big as celery stalks. Then you have to trim the leaves off each stalk with a paring knife, and remove the strings from the bigger stalks. Only then can you cut them into eating-sized pieces, and cook them.
I only found one recipe for cardoons, though I haven’t looked through all my cookbooks yet. Stewed cardoons, from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates. You boil the cardoons first in salted water with a bit of lemon juice, then stew them for an additional 20 minutes with canned tomatoes, olives, sauteed onions and garlic, and other herbs.
They were fine. Not delicious enough to warrant all that work, though! I suppose it’s just as well, because I don’t seem to have a lot of recipes for them, and I hate making the same recipe over and over again. If Joy of Cooking didn’t have some additional options, and it turned out I really loved cardoons, I was going to have to resort to Apicius.
On the other hand, the main dish I prepared that evening was pina colada shrimp, from one of the Rachael Ray cookbooks: seared shrimp in a coconut milk sauce with fresh pineapple, tossed with shredded coconut, served over jasmine rice. Stewed cardoons in tomatoes might sound like an odd accompaniment, but the tomato mingled nicely with the coconut around the edges to give a flavor reminiscent of a Brazilian moqueca (a seafood stew with tomatoes and coconut milk). And that is a very good thing!
On a completely different note, people who follow my blog might have noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately. They may also have noticed a precipitous decline in my posting frequency right around the time I joined Facebook. Hmmm…. I do have a few things I want to write about–interesting conversations and panels at the World Fantasy Convention, good books and magazines I’ve been reading–but it takes a lot of time to actually write a thoughtful post about something, rather than just rambling on about what I cooked for dinner earlier in the week, so those are all works in progress.
In writing news, I’ve been working on rewriting an older story that has not yet found a home, about this guy who starts turning into a tree. I think the new version is working much better. But it’s frustrating. I spent several days plodding through a new scene, only to realize towards the end that the scene was totally wrong and I needed to throw the whole thing out. Blah.
I’m also working on a novelette/novella (not sure how long it will end up) that’s a complete rewrite of another older story, this one about a swordswoman in a fantasy world without magic (or, at least, no more magic than our world), in an Empire that’s vaguely reminiscent of what you might imagine if a Chinese-influenced Mongolian Empire settled in European Russia, became decadent, and took over most of Europe and Asia (at least, that’s what I was aiming for). With some 18th century technology, but only rudimentary handguns. It’s also not-so-vaguely inspired by The Three Musketeers. Someone in one of my writers groups went so far as to call it Dumas pastiche. Or “When Athos Met D’Artagnan.” (There’s a romantic subplot, but don’t expect it to end well–again on a different note, will I start to write stories with happier romances now that I’ve been in one myself for the last year and a half? Or do I still have too much angst and bitterness to work out before I can get to those? Is this also something I should perhaps be pondering on Facebook rather than on my blog for the entire world to read? Questions, questions!)