Typical winter vegetables, the thistles have a taste similar to that of the artichoke, a little sweeter. They are excellent stewed or roasted in the oven. And au gratin is even better!
The thistles they are close relatives of the artichokes, they both come from wild thistle and also look alike: a head of large, long leaves, with a silvery green color. They are vegetables that ripen in winter and the best known varieties are Giant of Romagna, the Riccio d’Asti, the Bolognese and the Hunchback of Monferrato. The latter is so named because it is grown by bending the tip and burying it in lateral holes. This procedure causes the thistle to grow hunchback and white, due to the absence of light.
A full of fiber and minerals
Thistles are a very poor vegetable of calories and therefore suitable for anyone who has problems with the balance. They are then rich in fiber and mineral salts, especially potassium and calcium. But their most important virtue is that purifying, especially with regard to the liver. This vegetable in fact contains a substance called silibina, which helps the body dispose of toxins.
How to choose them
The thistles should be taken with the leaves tight, compact and intact. Choose as many as possible whites, with little green, they will be sweeter. To clean them, remove the outer leaves, and then remove with the potato peeler the hardest coasts, until you reach the tender heart. For cooking cut the stems to a length of 15-20 cm, remove all the external strands of the ribs well and throw them in abundant acidulated water. Let them cook for 2 to 3 hours to make the stems soften. Then you can cook them in the oven or sauté in a pan with oil and garlic.
The recipe: au gratin thistles
Clean as suggested 1 kg of thistles, cut them into small pieces and make them boil in plenty of salted water for 2 hours. When they are tender, drain them and let them cool. Meanwhile anoint a baking dish with butter, place a first layer of thistles, sprinkle with plenty of it parmesan and with butter flakes. Cover with the bechamel. Add a new layer of cardoons and cover them again with Parmesan, butter and béchamel. Bake the pan at 180 ° for 30-40 minutes, until you see a golden crust forming on the surface. At this point, take out and serve immediately.
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