Family Portrait

Even vegetables have families: meet the Compositae
When I was a girl, my Sicilian grandmother cooked up dishes I never saw at my friends' houses: stuffed artichokes, fried cardoons, garlicky sautéed escarole and dandelions every which way, in soup, salad, pasta, even liqueur. Now I realize that my family history is tied up with another family, a botanical one--my grandmother's favorite vegetables are all members of the Compositae. The commonly eaten Compositae--including all the let- tuces, endive, chicory, radicchio, tarragon, Jerusalem artichokes, black salsify (scorzonera) and burdock--share one family trait: when cut or peeled and exposed to air, they turn brown quickly. (To avoid oxidation, rub cut or peeled artichokes, cardoons and Jerusalem artichokes with a lemon half or put them in water to which a bit of lemon juice or vinegar has been added; peel burdock and black salsify under running water, then transfer them to acidulated water.) Here are seven recipes, inspired by my grandmother's, for getting to know the Compositae.
PUBLISHED March 1998

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