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Lamb cardoon stew with pomegranate molasses

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Cardoons are unusual around here. I have very rarely found them at specialty grocers or at the farmers' market. But there they were last week, at a local grocery store I perused on a whim. I bought them, of course. How could I not? There sat a bunch of thorny-looking, bitter, thistle-like stalks I had no idea what to do with. An instant culinary challenge.

At home, an internet search turned up at least a hundred recipes for bagna cauda, but I wanted to try something different. A Facebook query yielded some silly comments about animation (carDOONS, geddit?), but one friend mentioned an Italian preparation involving tomato sauce. Aha! There was an interesting direction for my mystery dish. The husband suggested the use of lamb, which brought to mind Moroccan flavors. I wanted to balance out the bitterness of the cardoons with a little sweetness and some spices, without drowning out the flavor of the cardoon itself.

The final dish includes strained tomatoes, a bit of pomegranate molasses for both sweet and sour notes, and a simple combination of Moroccan-inspired spices.

Lamb cardoon stew with pomegranate molasses

Olive oil
2lbs bite-size pieces of lamb on the bone
salt and pepper to taste
1 large red onion, sliced into semi-circles
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp each cinnamon, coriander, cumin
3 TBS pomegranate molasses
24oz/680gr strained tomatoes
1 bunch cardoons, peeled, trimmed, and sliced into 1-2 inch pieces
1 lemon

  1. Heat some olive oil in a large heavy pot. Season the meat with salt and pepper and add to pot, browning on all sides.
  2. When browned, remove the meat and set aside.
  3. Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until lightly browned. Season with the spices.
  4. Place the meat back in the pot, and pour in the pomegranate molasses and strained tomatoes. Simmer.
  5. While the stew simmers, bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Prepare the cardoons and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them. Blanche the cardoons.
  6. After the stew has been simmering for 45 minutes to an hour, add the blanched cardoons, and continue simmering until the meat is tender.

Serve with rice.

Serves 4.

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