Cardoons look menacing, kind of like celery on growth hormones. But they are actually closely related to artichokes. When I find them at the farmers' market, I buy them and make sformato di cardi (cardoon flan). It reminds me of Spring in Rome.
1 pound cardoons, ends trimmed, stripped of fibers, and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/4 cups milk
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
Boil the cardoons until they're half cooked in lightly salted water, drain them, and sauté them in half the butter. Salt them, and when they have absorbed the butter, sprinkle some of the milk over them and simmer them until done.
Using the remaining butter, milk, and a level tablespoon of flour, make a beciamela sauce. Beat the eggs, mix all the ingredients together and check seasoning. Transfer the mixture to a buttered smooth sided mold. Bake the sformato in a 325 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes or until sets. Serve hot with a tossed salad and a crisp white wine.