what to eat {sunchokes}

Also called Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes are neither from Jerusalem or in the artichoke family.  That’s a head-tilter, I know.  They are actually tubers within the aster/sunflower family native to North America.  So why are they also known as Jerusalem artichokes?  An Italian farmer named them girasole articicco, meaning sunflower artichoke, because the flavor was similar to artichokes.   When trying to translate to english, the name was mispronounced.  Sorry the story is not more intriguing. 
Whenever I see sunchokes on a restaurant menu I get excited but have to admit I’ve never bought them or cooked them at home.  But for the last several months they have been looking back at me from the grocery store saying, “take me home…give it a whirl.”  Then one day at the Ballard Farmer’s Market, these beauties finally lured me in.  As a side note, the sunchokes purchased at the Ballard and Pike Place Markets were 50 times cleaner than the ones I saw in the grocery stores.  They were also, not surprisingly, more fresh, more crunchy.  Buy them direct!
Sunchokes are so versatile and can be prepared a number of different ways: baked, roasted, fried, sautéed.  Many people blanch them before using them in salads but I like them raw.  Although they are a tuber they are less starchy than potatoes.  To me they have the texture of a water chestnut.  With their mild, slightly sweet, nutty taste they go well with many things: chicken, salmon, fennel, potatoes, mushrooms.  And they are great in salads with a variety of cheeses: mild blues, feta, chevre and especially parmesan.  And you must try them in a gratin.  Here are a few simple, easy but very flavorful things to try…just click the photos for the first two for the recipes.  I think they’re delicious; Goldfarb is not as big a fan.  Or maybe he just likes them in small doses.  After a couple of weeks of several sunchoke entrees he politely asked, “Are we done with the sunchokes for awhile now?”  Huh…back to the potato for him! 

sunchoke arugula parmesan salad

sunchoke cauliflower soup

roasted sunchoke chips

1 lb. unpeeled, scrubbed sunchokes   .   extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt   .   1 ½ tsp fresh, minced rosemary

Fill a bowl with cold water.  Using a mandoline, slice the sunchokes into 1/16″ slices, quickly dropping them into the water to avoid browning.  Combine salt + rosemary; set aside.  Heat oven to 400°.  If you have a dual oven, do not use the convection feature.  Working in batches, remove the sunchoke slices, patting them dry and laying them on a roasting tray in a single layer.  Brush the tops with a little oil and roast for 15 minutes or until crispy.  Remove from oven and while still hot, sprinkle with rosemary salt.   


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