Cardoons can be made into a divine silky soup that sings of spring with its subtle artichoke notes. This soup is delicious served chilled as a preview to a light lunch.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic in olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 cups roughly chopped precooked cardoons (see procedure below)
sea salt
freshly cracked white pepper
3 cups roughly chopped peeled waxy potatoes
1 quart low sodium chicken broth
flat-leaf parsley (optional)
croutons (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add garlic and onion and cook until nearly translucent. Stir in cardoons and lightly salt and pepper. Add potatoes and pour broth over all. Simmer over medium-high heat until all vegetables are soft, about 45 - 60 minutes. Cool before proceeding.

Blend mixture in batches in a blender on high speed until creamy. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve chilled or hot, garnished with parsley leaves and croutons.

Makes about 6 cups.

To precook cardoons:

Discard tough outer ribs. Trim tops, bottoms and any leaves from the remaining ribs. Remove strings with a vegetable peeler or a paring knife. Wash ribs thoroughly in cold water. Cut each rib in half or into pieces that will fit in a large saucepan or stockpot.

Prepare a large stockpot by filling with water, adding about a tablespoon of kosher or sea salt and bringing to a boil. Add cardoons and boil gently until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain cardoons and cool cardoons in a bowl of cold water. Remove any stray strings and cut into pieces suitable for your recipe.