Switzerland: A Geneva Christmas: Cardoon Gratin Recipe

Published by Wednesday, December 19, 2012 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

From the archives

Cardoon gratin is a classic Geneva Christmas dish, but only brave souls should to try to prepare them because they are prickly, and the preparation can be long and tedious. Many farmers markets in Switzerland now sell them prepared sous vide, in plastic vacuum-packed packages, which is probably the best option for those who don’t get a thrill out of getting a few pricks. In any case, it is important to schedule it carefully into your meal preparations, because it is time-consuming any way you go about it.

Cardoon Gratin Recipe

Preparation of Cardoons for Gratin

  1. Throw out any hard stems and any that are wilted.
  2. Peel the cardoons by removing leaves, spines and stringy parts. The exterior will then be covered with a fuzzy layer. Use a cloth to rub stalks gently to remove fuzz.
  3. Cut stems into 8 cm (3 cm) slices. Rub with lemon, or if you intend to use them later, put slices into lemon water so they won’t turn dark.
  4. You now have two choices: you can either cook them in a white vegetable broth you’ve made ahead of time, or you can cook them in the lemon water you soaked them in.
  5. Bring to a boil and boil until tender. It should take about 30 minutes for them to become tender, but if they are larger in diameter it can take up to 2 hours, so allow plenty of time.



All these steps can be carried out while the cardoons are cooking. There are actually several ways of doing this. You can either make a Béchamel (white) sauce and sprinkle cheese on the cardoons before you put them in the oven, or you can make a Mornay (cheese) sauce and pour it on the cooked cardoons before putting in oven to brown. I think it’s tastier to make a Mornay sauce, and then sprinkle a bit of cheese on the top before putting it in the oven. Here’s my recipe.


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Approximately 1 kg of cardoons
30 g of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
2.5 dl of whole milk
1 dl of cream
50 g of cheese, type Gruyère or Swiss (see photo below), grated
Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Salt and pepper to taste

Emmentaler (also known as Swiss Cheese), while...



  1. Make a Béchamel sauce, using the proportions of ingredients above.
  2. When finished and seasoned, add cream and cheese, setting aside a tablespoon of cheese. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 250° C.
  4. Once cardoons are tender, drain, making sure all water is drained off.
  5. In a large bowl, mix cooked cardoons and Mornay sauce.
  6. Pour into a baking dish of the appropriate size, so that there is a layer of about 3 cm high.
  7. Sprinkle evenly with remaining grated cheese and a few knobs of butter.
  8. Put in hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Notes: It is important to use a hard, Swiss-type cheese. Cheddar cheese would have too strong of a taste. If you can’t find cardoons, the same recipe can be made with Swiss chard, thus eliminating the long, meticulous preparation. Simply cut them as for the cardoons and cook in chicken broth until tender, then follow the other steps in the recipe for making the gratin. Its texture is quite similar to that of cardoons.

Switzerland: Tomatoes and Swiss Chard, and it’s in Season!

Published by Tuesday, August 16, 2011 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

Swiss chard, along with kale, mustard greens and collard greens, is one of several leafy green vegetables often referred to as “greens”. It is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in white, red or yellow with wide fan-like green leaves.

The Swiss variety tends to have whitish stems not dissimilar to green celery but wider and somewhat fan-shaped, while the varieties found in North America can be red, purpose or yellow. Some say chard is second only to spinach in terms of nutrients, and it is certainly full of fiber and phytonutrients.

When choosing chard, make sure the leaves are not wilted and the stems look fresh and crisp. If it looks limp in any way, pass it up.

It is one of the few vegetables that probably shouldn’t be eaten raw, due to its high acid content.

Although it is referred to as “Swiss” chard, it isn’t actually native to Switzerland. It is a Mediterranean vegetable. Already in the fourth century B.C., Aristotle wrote about “chard”, the common name used in the Mediterranean region. It probably got its name from a vegetable that it resembles, the cardoon. It is thought that the French confused the two and ended up calling them both “charde”.

In modern times, the French call Swiss chard blettes, the Swiss call them côtes de bettes, and, funnily enough, the English-speaking world has kept the name closest to the original used in ancient times: chard.


Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with variously col...









Its actual homeland lies farther south, in the Mediterranean region; in fact, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about chard in the fourth century B.C. This is not surprising given the fact that the ancient Greeks, and later the Romans, honored chard for its medicinal properties. Chard got its common name from another Mediterranean vegetable, cardoon, a celery-like plant with thick stalks that resemble those of chard. The French got the two confused and called them both “carde.”

Swiss chard is in season for a good deal of the year in Switzerland, but this recipe takes advantage of summer to use some of those divine tomatoes that embellish the farmers markets.

In winter, it can be mixed with potatoes to make a lovely purée or soup.


Tomatoes and Swiss Chard


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1 Tbsp. cooking oil

1 kg Swiss chard

500 g ripe tomatoes

1 tsp. sea salt
Pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil to medium low in a Dutch oven.
  2. In the meantime, bring a large soup pan of water to boil.
  3. Scrape any mud or black spots off Swiss chard. Wash carefully.
  4. Cut stems into 2 cm long chunks.
  5. Add Swiss chard to warm oil.
  6. Sautée for 2 minutes, stirring all the time.
  7. Wash tomatoes.
  8. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds or until skin starts to crack.
  9. Remove tomatoes from boiling water, and run under cold water, carefully removing the skins with fingers.
  10. Squeeze to remove seeds or scrape out seeds with end of a knife.
  11. Chop finely.
  12. Add tomatoes to Swiss chard. Mix well.
  13. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Continue mixing.
  14. Turn heat down to low and cover Dutch oven. Cook slowly for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on whether you prefer it crunchy or less crunchy.
  15. Serve hot.

Suggestion: For a livelier version, add garlic and garam masala.

Suggestion: To make this in to a vegetarian meal, add borlotti, cannellini beans  or garbanzo beans and sprinkle with grated cheese.

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