Cardoon Flan

Ingredients
Makes 6 flans

1 lb / 500 gr cardoons
4 free range organic eggs
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 gr Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil (or butter)
1 tablespoon fine grain sea salt (plus 1 teaspoon)
pinch ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and position rack in center of oven. Grease (preferably with butter) 6 ramekins or muffin molds
Fill a bowl with cold water, add a tablespoon of salt and the juice of ½ lemon.
Trim off any ugly parts of the cardoon, remove the strings from the stems, just like you would do with celery (you should be able to see the ribs on the outside of each stalk). Cut into large pieces and soak in the lemon-salted water for at least 10 minutes (30 minutes is best). This will reduce the bitterness and will prevent the cardoons from browning.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the cardoons for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain.
In a large pan heat the olive oil (or butter), add the cardoons, (the remaining) 1 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper and saute’ for a couple of minutes.
Transfer to a bowl. Using a hand blender (or your food processor) puree the cardoons.
Separate the yolk from the egg whites. Stir the yolks and the parmesan cheese into the cardoon puree, until well incorporated.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer add egg whites and beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  Add pinch of salt, increase speed to medium high and beat to soft peaks. The egg whites will be white and foamy, with large but tight bubbles.
Using a metal spoon gently fold in the egg whites into the cardoon mixture without losing the light, airy texture that you worked so hard to achieve.
Pour the cardoons mixture into the prepared ramekins/molds, dividing evenly (mixture will fill ramekins). Place the ramekins/molds into a baking dish, transfer baking dish to oven rack and fill the baking dish with enough water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins/molds.
Bake in the oven 30 minutes, until firm and golden.
If you’re not familiar with this baking technique it’s called bain-marie. It will help keep the flans fluffier and moist. Here you can find all details about it.
To serve, run small sharp knife around flan to loosen. Turn over onto plate. Shake gently to release flan. Carefully lift off ramekin/mold.
Repeat with remaining flans and serve warm with some shredded parmesan cheese or with some anchovy paste diluted with hot water.