Much prized in Italy and France, and especially in Piedmont and Nice, cardoons are in season from about October through February.
- 9 fresh anchovies or small sardines, cleaned and fileted, heads removed
- Coarse kosher salt
- 3 lemons
- 2 stalks cardoons, washed
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 salt-packed whole anchovy or 2 flat oil-packed anchovy filets
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and peeled
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on the bias
- Freshly ground black pepper
Put fresh anchovies into a wide flat glass or ceramic dish, season both sides of fish with 1 generous pinch salt per side, and arrange them, skin side up, in an even layer in dish. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut 1 of the lemons in half, squeeze juice into a large bowl of cold water, and add rinds. Carefully cut thorns and leaves off cardoon stalks, peel tough stringy skin with a vegetable peeler, then thinly slice cardoons on the bias. Put cardoons into the acidulated water as peeled and sliced to keep them from turning brown. Once water comes to a boil, generously season it with salt. Drain cardoons, then add to boiling water. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until cardoons are easily pierced with a sharp knife but not mushy, 20–25 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
Grate zest from the remaining lemons and set aside. Halve 1 of the zested lemons and set aside, saving remaining zested lemon for another use. Remove fresh anchovies from refrigerator, uncover, and scatter thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and lemon zest evenly over fish. Sprinkle anchovies with a few drops of the vinegar, squeeze juice from lemon halves on top, then drizzle with 1⁄4 cup of the oil. Cover, return to the refrigerator, and continue marinating until anchovy flesh begins to turn white in spots, about 2 hours.
Put shallots and the remaining vinegar into a large bowl and set aside to marinate for 10–15 minutes. If using a salt-packed anchovy, brush the salt off it and filet it. Mince anchovy filets and add to bowl with shallots. Whisk in 1⁄4 cup of oil, add garlic and season vinaigrette to taste with pepper. Remove and discard garlic before using.
Put cardoons and celery into bowl with vinaigrette and toss until well coated. Adjust seasonings. Divide salad between 6 salad plates, arrange e 3 marinated anchovies on top of each, then drizzle salads with some of the remaining oil.