CWB-Style Carduni Fritti (Baked not “Fried” Cardoons) [RECIPE]

Born in Texas to a Sicilian-American family, my appreciation for both fried food and traditional Italian cuisine has been imprinted into my DNA. While my family has been American-born for many generations, the old-world roots remain strong and have integrated nicely with Texan culture. With family recipes passed down in hand-written cookbooks, both old-world and new; men and women in the kitchen working up their culinary magic — my family is all about making and enjoying food together. It’s the central focus at every gathering (for better or for worse), and it’s part of our identity. We do Southern, we do Italian, and we do Southern Italian; and it’s all amazing. 

My passion for all things food — gardening, cooking, eating, sharing — surely stems from my lineage. Part of my inspiration in creating recipes for this blog is to combine family tradition with the healthy lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself — delicious meets healthy. My goal is to build upon the family recipe, replacing less-than-ideal ingredients with nourishing ones we can all feel good about eating, all without losing the essence of the family dish. I did this with my mom’s green beans, and now I’m going to share my version of the Carduni Fritti (Fried Cardoons) my grandmother used to make — or as she would call them, “gardunas.”

What’s a Cardoon?

It turns out, that’s an excellent question. The idea for this recipe came when a relative suggested I fry up the stems of my artichoke plant to make fried carduni. Skeptical that this was actually what cardoons were, I did a little internet investigating and discovered that the difference between cardoons and artichoke seems to be a little unclear. I do know that the cardoons my grandmother used to make were made out of the leaves of the plant, not the stems, but as far as I can tell, you can’t just pull off the leaves of the artichoke plant and fry them up.

The final verdict (as far as I was able to decipher from my cursory internet research) is that they share a common ancestor, that there is a domesticated and a wild variety of cardoon, but that the globe artichoke plant was cultivated for domestic use earlier in history. So while they are similar, they are not exactly the same. All this is to say that I didn’t use official cardoons, I used my artichoke stems for this recipe, and if I can find cardoons, I’ll be trying this again — and possibly trying a few of the cardoon recipes I found on my internet hunt.

fried cardoons carduni fritti

Cardoons – generally grown ornamentally, but traditionally eaten in Italy and Spain (Pauline Eccles [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

fried cardoons carduni fritti

Globe Artichokes in my back yard

Finding Cardoons

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea where my grandmother found the raw cardoons for the recipe she used to make. They’re definitely a seasonal item (we always ate them around the holidays and around Easter) but besides that, I don’t know. A quick search online resulted in “maybe you can find them at the grocery store certain times of the year.”

Of course, reading this has inspired me to order some seeds to grow my own, but in the meantime, the stems of my artichoke plants held up just fine in terms of the texture and flavor I came to expect from my grandmother’s signature Sicilian dish. 

Baked, Not Fried

I’m starting to feel like I shouldn’t have called this recipe “Carduni Fritti.” After all, the ingredients are neither true cardoons nor fried, but if you just stay with me, it will all be worth it. If you’ve tried that green bean recipe I linked above — here it is again — then you know that I can make some delicious gluten-free Italian food, and these little numbers fall right in line with excellent oven-baked Italian deliciousness. Recreating MawMaw Josie’s “gardunas,” CWB-style, gave me the opportunity to make use of the stems of my giant artichoke plant, which would have otherwise just been composted, so it was worthwhile, even if calling this dish “fried cardoons” is a little inaccurate.

In the end, my “not-Carduni not-Fritti” hit the nostalgic spot for me — as did my imitation of my grandmother eating them.

fried cardoons carduni fritti

fried cardoons carduni fritti

fried cardoons carduni fritti

fried cardoons carduni fritti

fried cardoons carduni fritti 

 

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CWB-Style Carduni Fritti
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
16 min
Total Time
50 min
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
16 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 or 6 artichoke stems, cut into 4 inch pieces, blanched in salted water and peeled
  2. 2 eggs beaten with 2 tbs unsweetened almond milk
  3. 1 cup garbanzo flour
  4. 1 tsp seasoned salt
  5. 1 tsp lemon pepper
  6. 2 tbs fresh chopped oregano, basil, and rosemary
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. In a shallow pan with about 2 inches of water 1 tsp salt, parboil the stems for about 5 minutes
  3. Pour into a strainer and run cold water over until they're cool enough to handle
  4. Peel the outer fibrous layer around the outside of the stem off to expose the tender, inner heart of the stem
  5. Slice stems in half, lengthwise
  6. Pat the peeled stems dry
  7. Beat 2 eggs with 2 tbs unsweetened almond milk in a medium bowl
  8. In a separate bowl, mix garbanzo flour, seasoned salt, lemon pepper, and chopped fresh herbs
  9. Grease a cookie sheet large enough that all the pieces will lay flat without overlapping using avocado or coconut oil
  10. Dip each piece in egg mixture, then in the batter, then on the pan until all are battered and ready to bake
  11. Bake on 350 on a greased cookie sheet for 8 minutes on each side
  12. Lightly spray with extra virgin olive oil (CWB Favorite Pick) and salt immediately when they come out of the oven
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FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link (CWB Favorite Picks), which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Best Stuffed Squash Blossom Recipe Ever

vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain free

This year we decided to plant pumpkins in our newly created front yard edible landscape, and as a result, we’ve had a boon of squash blossoms to eat (on the left in the picture above). In years past, I’ve seen tiny baskets of squash blossoms in booths at the farmers’ market and been curious as to how people eat them. Every time I’d ask a farmer, the answer would be, “stuff ’em with cheese, bread ’em, fry ’em.”

MMMM, healthy! (sounded like gas and pain to me)

As a result, we never bothered buying them, but once we found ourselves with a front yard full of squash blossoms, I decided to experiment. The first batch I picked ended up getting chopped up and thrown into scrambled eggs, because I never found the time to do anything with them before they started to shrivel. Little did I know, squash blossom petals are like little magical yellow silky spider webs — much stronger and stickier than you’d imagine, which means they are great for stuffing, even if they shrivel a little bit. The eggs were good, but I wouldn’t say the blossoms added much to them besides color.

vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain free

I was prepared for the next round I picked, which I used for this recipe, and which will undoubtedly redefine what you think of a gluten-free, grain-free, vegan ANYTHING, much less a version of something that’s typically stuffed with cheese, battered, and fried.

Seriously.

I’m talking about stuffing squash blossoms with vegan cheese and coating them with grain-free batter. This is a vegan, gluten-free squash blossom recipe that will have you pinching yourself in disbelief. One bite of these little nuggets of joy and you’ll be singing the praises of vegans and “glutards” (a new term I just learned that completely cracks me up and apparently describes me) everywhere! Maybe you won’t be singing their praises, but you might be singing mine for sharing this with you. This recipe is not only gluten-free, it’s grain-free, lending itself to an even greater audience of restricted eaters.

 

While I’m not the most humble of people among us, I don’t generally endorse the singing of my own praises, but with Loren as my witness, these things are THE BOMB, and you won’t regret making a special trip to the grocery store for garbanzo bean flour to make them. That’s a promise.

A word on which squash blossoms to eat

vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain-free

example using a zucchini plant

There are two kinds of blossoms you’ll find in your garden if you’re growing squash of any kind. Some of the blooms are male and some are female. The male ones just look like a regular flower with a regular stem. Those are the ones you want to pick for a recipe like this one. The female ones have a little mini-fruit at the base of the blossom. Check out this article for more photographic examples and some great info on squash gardening. The take-home message is that you shouldn’t pick the female flowers because you will likely be preventing the fruit from forming. The bees move the pollen from the males to the females, and that “insemination” gets the fruit going. If you take the flower off before that happens, the fruit won’t mature. 

Squash Blossoms(1)

Gluten-free Vegan Squash Blossom Heaven

Ingredients:
  • 20 male squash blossoms
  • 1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

    vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain free

    basil herbalea super globe in my garden

  • 1 cup water (you want the mixture to be pasty — thinner than hummus, thicker than soup)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt to go in the batter + a little extra to sprinkle right after they come out of the oil
  • Cashew cheese (I left out the cilantro this time. Linked recipe makes more than is needed for 20 squash blossoms)
  • Fresh basil (any kind will work — typically smaller leaves are sweeter. I used basil herbalea super globe from the garden.)
  • Sunflower, sesame, or coconut oil for frying (you want about half an inch of oil in your fry pan)
 Directions:
  1. Make the cashew cheese following the instructions this recipe leaving out the cilantro
  2. Carefully open each squash blossom to stuff the cashew cheese and small basil leaf into the blossom and twist it shut (the petals just stick together like magic yellow mesh)
  3. In a wide shallow bowl, mix the garbanzo flour and salt and slowly incorporate about a cup of water, until you get the desired consistency — not too thick, not too runny
  4. Heat your skillet before adding the oil, then add 1/2 an inch and heat to 330F
  5. Dip the blossoms into the batter, covering completely, and then place into the oil
  6. Cook each side until golden brown
  7. Salt immediately
  8. Drain on some paper towels and allow them to cool before devouring

vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain free

 

 

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