Gobbi (Cardoni)

Whether you call them gobbi, cardoni or cardi, in Italian, or cardoons, in English, this vegetable may look like celery — on steroids! — but don’t be fooled. Gobbi are actually a distant cousin of artichokes and their tastes are surprisingly similar. Moreover, like the artichoke, gobbi have thistle-like characteristics which must be dealt with before serving.

Gobbi

To begin, you may need to discard one or two of the outer stalks if they are too large or have been badly bruised. Like celery, the inner stalks of the bunch will grow lighter in color and more leafy as you get closer to the center. Although some may enjoy the leaves, my family does not and trims them away. The back of the stalks have long filaments or strands running their full length, similar to celery. These, too, may be trimmed and a vegetable peeler can handle them. The last parts of the vegetable to be trimmed are the stalks’ edges. A knife or vegetable peeler will get the job done. Once a stalk is trimmed, it should be cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces and then placed in a bowl of cold, acidulated water. (That’s a fancy term for water into which the juice of a couple of lemons has been added.) This will help keep the pieces from turning brown as you trim the remaining stalks. Once trimmed, you’ll need to address gobbi’s inherent bitterness, which reportedly grows stronger as the plant matures. This can be easily countered by blanching the pieces in boiling, salted water. The length of time required depends upon your taste preference, for the longer they’re blanched, the less bitter they become. You may wish to let them go until they are just about fork-tender. Personally, I don’t mind a little of the bitterness to remain. The rest of the recipe is easy enough to follow.

If you’ve glanced at the recipe below, you may have noticed that it is practically the same as was described in an entry that detailed Mom’s method of cooking Vegetables. So, why a separate post for this one? Well, gobbi are seasonal, arriving in groceries & markets around Thanksgiving and leaving shortly after New Year’s Day. Whenever I see it, I’m reminded of the Christmases of my youth. Unfortunately, it’s been some time since I’ve come across gobbi in a supermarket, the last being 4 or 5 years ago. That time, I bought what little was available and shared my find with Zia. This year, out of the blue, I found it in no less than 4 markets. Why the sudden surge in availability is beyond me but I did take advantage of the situation. As often as I could, I bought some, cleaned & blanched it, and then froze it for future meals. Admittedly, I may have overdone it but, then again, who knows whether it will be back next year? I might as well feast on it while I can. Oh, don’t worry. I’ll be sure to bring some to Zia, too.

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Gobbi Recipe

total time: approx. 30 minutes (includes prep time)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of gobbi, trimmed, cut, & soaking in acidulated water
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Gobbi Sautéed with Tomato & Garlic

Directions

  1. Place gobbi into a large pot of boiling, salted water. Return to boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer.
  2. When the gobbi has reached the desired tenderness and taste, remove from heat and drain away the water. To retain its green color, the gobbi may be placed immediately into an ice bath.
  3. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for no more than two minutes before adding the blanched gobbi. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  4. Continue cooking until the gobbi are fork-tender and heated through.
  5. Serve immediately.

Variations

  • The recipe, as written, is pretty straight-forward. I like to include a little tomato, “for color.” Just after adding garlic to the frying pan, I’ll add either some diced tomato, a little tomato paste, or, as pictured above, a few cherry/grape tomatoes that have been halved. A little chopped onion or shallot may be added, as well, but if you do,  sauté them for a few minutes before adding the garlic.

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