Louie’s Cooking With Love March Madness Edition: Cardoon v. Fava Beans

This month I’m marking the 101st birthday of Louie, my dad, by publishing legendary recipes that feature two of springtime’s premier delicacies. These Cooking With Love recipes (along with all the others that have been revealed so far) can be found here.

Take a look and let me know what you like best, foraged wild cardoon or homegrown fava beans, the first crop planted in the spring garden?

This is a classic match-up: wild v. domesticated, found v. cultivated, weed v. legume, stringy v. furry (see below). About the only thing they have in common is the Romano cheese that accompanies them both so well on your plate.

There’s gotta be some cardoon in there somewhere.

My Winner: Cardoon

I love them both but have to give a slight nod to the cardoon. The burdock plant, often found on the border of fields, is best picked when it is young (but not too young) when the stalk is about the width of your ring finger. In our family, it has a mystique all its own, because of the very miracle of finding it– for FREE!– in the secret locations that were scoped out in advance and discussed only in hushed tones among family.

Cardoon brought us together like nothing else could because it involved all three wings of the family– the hunter/gatherer (my dad), the sous chefs (the kids), and the cook (my mom until she got fed up with the feeding frenzy that ensued, and would let my dad cook ’em with love).

As you’ll see from the recipe, the real time-consuming work isn’t so much finding them and cutting them down, it is in the peeling of the stringy, fibrous plant. And the cooking takes a little longer than you might imagine because if you rush the flour and egg dipping, you end up with “globs of gardooni” — and that’s as bad as it sounds.

So keep in mind, cardoon are a laborious team effort to prepare. In our house, they were treated with the ultimate respect. Meaning they were eaten with our fingers while standing up, still warm from the pan, as they were being cooked, as soon as they hit the serving tray lined with paper towel.

Sadly, my parents never once dressed up my brother Mike as a fava bean.

Fava Beans

The fava beans have a much different arc to their story. They are planted in the garden in early spring. Here in Pennsylvania (Zone 7), around March 1. Growing up in western New York (Zone 6) a week or two later, definitely by St. Joseph’s Day (March 19). I planted mine last week.

They hold a special place in my heart because, when my daughter Eve was 2 1/2, in the last year we could select a Halloween costume without her input, we dressed her in a fava bean costume for trick or treating. The outfit’s primary feature was a furry vest, like the luxuriously soft inside of the pod. It was a big hit for the handful of people who actually got it. Not to mention, a sensibly warm ensemble for a cold northeast evening of going door-to-door foraging for candy. Eve has largely forgiven us for the transgression (I hope). Since it was before iPhoto, I don’t have the images at my fingertips to insert into the article quite yet.

I hope you enjoy all of Louie’s favorite recipes. My goal is to put up some more seasonal favorites during the year, so please be sure to COMMENT, LIKE, SUBSCRIBE, and SHARE the page to get them all.

And who knows, maybe I’ll find the photos of that fava bean costume!

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