Bagna Cauda – A Piedmontese tradition

Bagna Cauda (‘hot bath” or “hot dip”)

Illustration of Nana in gardenWhile attending a cooking school at Tenuta di Cappezzana near Florence, Italy over twenty years ago we discovered for ourselves puntarelle and other chicories, cardi (cardoon), and other garden vegetables and began propagating them in our garden.

 The cardoon soon had our full attention.

 Sometimes referred to as “high maintenance”, we revere the processes associated with cultivation and preparation of the cardoon.

 In our search for cardoon seeds, we searched for seed packets all over Florence. Not being fluent in Italian, we were not having any luck finding “cardi” seeds. One morning, while attending the market in the Piazza St. Spirito, across the river Arno in Florence, a nice stranger overheard our conversation at the seed store. He helped translate our request to the shop keeper…we wanted “carrrrrdi” (emphasize the trill of the “r”), not “cardi”. Success!!!

 Italian methods for growing cardoon sometime include blanching. Pictured are cardoons wrapped in newspapers and bags in a home garden. The larger scale production of the Cardi

Cardoons covered for winter.

Cardoons covered for winter.

Gobbi di Nizza Monferrato involves mechanically heaving up the soil in the rows of cardoon, forcing the plant to bend slightly under the soil, as it continues to reach for sunlight. This practice keeps the inner stalks tender and delicious. Cardoon grown in this manner is eaten raw in many dishes. This type of cardoon is also known as the “hunchback” cardoon, as pictured in the Nana Cardoon logo.

 Cardoon is a very old Mediterranean vegetable…some sources quoting it as the leaf in Corinthian architecture. We are especially fond of traditional peasant dishes from Italy and France. The smallest amount of ingredients, harvested at the peak of nutrition and freshness, served simply, combine to create taste memories…something that people long to return to time and time again.

One of our favorite ways of celebrating the cardoon is Bagna Cauda. Pictured below are three ingredients in the recipe we use. Our thanks to Gianluigi Peduzzi for the traditional terra cotta warmer used at table for the Bagna Cauda, and to his company, Rustichella d’Abruzzo, for the best anchovies available.

At table, for Italian fall-themed dinners, we begin with Bagna Cauda service. Each guest has their own personal warmer, into which they dip cardoon pieces, pepper slices, and other seasonal vegetable slices. The vegetable slices are dipped in the warm anchovy, garlic, olive oil mixture, and usually held over a piece of rustic bread, which is then consumed, or used to mop up the last tasty drop.

Bon Gusto!

Serves 4-6 people as a first course or appetizer

  • 3/4 ​cup         extra-virgin olive oil*
  • 4    ​TB            (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 8-10               garlic cloves, minced to a fine, paste-like texture
  • 10-12             anchovy fillets, oil-packed preferred
  • 8-10  ​cups    assorted raw vegetables, such as fennel, sweet bell pepper, endive and radicchio, trimmed and cut into 3″ – 4″pieces
  • 4  stalks of cardoon, trimmed, cut into 4″ pieces and cooked in acidulated water until tender
  • coarse, country-style bread, cut into approx 1/2″ slices


In a saucepan over low heat, gently warm the olive oil with finely minced garlic and anchovies which should “melt”  in to oil and will provide a wonderful flavor. This should take about 5 minutes. Don’t rush it. Remove from the heat and swirl in the butter.

Bagna Cauda ingredients

Bagna Cauda ingredients

Pour the oil mixture in to a warmer (again, gentle please). Pass vegetables and bread slices. As your guests dip the vegetables into the flavored oil they can use the bread to catch the drips.

Use a high quality extra virgin olive oil with a harvest date no older than 12 months.  Your oil should taste and smell fresh, not rancid. This is a country dish often served in the fields in the fall and winter months to vineyard folks as they did the hard work of pruning.

Classes at Nana Cardoon

Nana Cardoon 2015 classes are open for discovery!

Learn how to carve your own wooden spoon. Explore the importance of water in our food. Investigate nutrient density, seed saving, homesteading , and building composts. These are just a few of the class topics in the Nana Cardoon 2015 educational series.

Our instructors, working practitioners and experts in their subject, offer community members, farmers, gardeners, and teachers an in-depth experience in a wide variety of food and farming subjects.

Each class offers a wealth of information through hands-on projects, presentations, and discussion. A wood-fired oven shares the classroom space and bicycles build to grind grain wait for the willing rider nearby. The long table fills with a farm fresh lunch at midday. The ever-changing orchards, rich garden beds and sown fields surround you.

Don’t wait long to sign up, space is limited to ensure the best experience for all.

Check out the full list of classes, then contact Charlene to save your place in the classroom and at the table!

Our Story

Welcome to Nana Cardoon, an urban farm and learning center offering opportunities to explore and learn about food production, from the soil to seeds, from the field to the table.

Kurdish Flatbread

Kurdish Flatbread – baked in a brick oven!

“What’s Nana Cooking?”

  • Makes 8 flatbreads – approx 5″ x 12″ shape, or 10-12″ round, as desired
  • Adapted from Flatbreads and Flavors of the World, Naomi Duigud

Illustration of Nana in garden“I am working with the recipe for Kurdish Flatbread from Naomi Duigud’s Flatbreads and Flavors of the World. It is a traditional peasant bread, and very easy to work with out of doors and with students, and is baked in the earth oven. It goes well with hummus made from our own garbanzo beans. Our goal is on-farmed process bulgur wheat, so that there is provenance in this simple, nutritious flatbread.”


  • 1 cup             bulgur
  • 1 tsp              sea salt
  • 1/2 cup        minced onion
  • 2 cups          boiling water
  • 2 cups          unbleached all-purpose white flour (as freshly milled as possible)

Preheat oven to 450° F

Pour water over bulgur, salt and onion. Let stand 30 min. Incorporate flour by hand. Knead 10 min on floured surface. Let stand 15 min to 3 hrs. Divide into 8 pieces. Roll out with rolling pin to desired shape, about 1/8″ thick. Transfer 2 at a time to the oven. Bake 2 minutes each side, until breads begin to brown around the edges.

Cardoon House Crackers ready for oven.

Cardoon House Crackers ready for the oven.


Nana’s House Crackers

“Our house crackers are served at most events held here at the farm. Their special quality is directly related to tending our levain. Most everyday we refresh our levain by discarding small amounts, and adding an equal amount of water and flour back in to the levain. The cracker recipe is:”

  • 1 cup               levain
  • 1-1/4 cup        flour (whole white, whole wheat and rye combinations)
  • 1/3 cup             unrefined coconut oil*
  • 1/2  tsp             sea salt

Preheat oven to 350° F

Mix by hand. Let rest 7 hours, roll out until very thin ( 1/16”) on two parchment-covered baking sheets and score with tip of knife or pastry cutter.

Bake for approximately 8 minutes, rotate the pans and bake for another 8 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open using an oven mitt. Crackers will crisp up while the oven cools.

* We use La Tourangelle 100% organic and unrefined coconut oil. This is a great substitute for shortening, and has a neutral flavor and no trans fats.

What is a levain?

A levain is the portion of pre-ferment flour and water that goes into the final dough and raises the whole mass during the bulk (first) and final rises.

To make a levain, you must first make a starter culture, which is essentially a mixture of flour, water, and ambient yeasts and bacteria, which under ideal conditions, will thrive and multiply. This is a 6-8 day process of taking a small amount of the flour and water mixture and adding more flour and water, until you have a strong active culture. Once you have an active starter, you again take a portion and “build” it with larger amounts of flour and water. After two builds, the levain should be ready.

Any good artisan bread book will have a thorough explanation of this process.

At Nana Cardoon we use two basic methods for building levain.  One comes from an article in The Art of Eating publication: “A Recipe for Pain au Levain,” by James MacGuire. (Number 83, Winter 2009). In the same issue is an interesting article about the Poilane Bakery Pain au Levain. The second method we use is described in Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. We also consult Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish.