I like to serve this elegant dish with roast guinea fowl or lamb. The cardoons have a bitter, yet beautiful flavour that stays with you. The work involved in stripping and cleaning them is well worth it.
Have a bowl of cold water ready with the juice of 1 lemon squeezed in. If the cardoons are attached, separate the sticks from the base. Leave the tender very inner sticks whole with their leaves attached (cook them with the rest, then eat them with some oil and lemon juice). Wearing gloves and using a small sharp knife or potato peeler, strip away the outer strings of the sticks by digging in at one end of the stick and dragging all the way down. The strings are unpleasant to eat so make sure you get all of them. As you work, cut the sticks into irregular lengths of
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add the drained cardoons and squeeze in the juice of the remaining lemon. Boil, uncovered, for about 35 minutes or until the cardoons are tender when poked with a fork. You may need to remove the thinner sticks if they are cooked before the rest are ready. Drain well.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and add the cardoons, garlic, chilli and salt and pepper. Sauté until golden here and there, about 15 minutes or longer if necessary. Remove from the heat, scatter the parmesan over the top and put the lid on for a few minutes so the cheese melts into the cardoons. Serve warm.
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