Ah the sunchoke. What an adorable little thing. Well, when you get one that happens to look like this:
Otherwise, they mostly just look like crippled alien fetuses.
Questionable looks aside, though, the sunchoke — or Jerusalem artichoke — is a wonderfully useful tuber that comes from the bottom of a lovely sunflower-like plant. In fact, the use of the word Jerusalem in their name likely came from the english corruption of the italian word for the root: girasole, meaning sunflower.
These ugly little buggers are somewhat like a lightly-sweetened cross between a potato, a parsnip, and a rutabaga…all tinged with an earthy hint of artichoke and mushroom. The texture is a little bit like a potato, and a little bit like kohlrabi. Mysterious.
Often recommended for diabetics, the sunchoke plant doesn’t produce starch like most root vegetables. Instead, it produces inulin, a polysaccaride undigestible by humans, meaning the root doesn’t produce a spike in blood sugar levels like potatoes or other starchy plants. This is great and good and the like – but do beware that this characteristic also means it can produce some heavy, unexpected and uncontrollable flatulence in some folks. Too bad for them!
Further substantiating the resounding approval of the “science of the glycemic index,” the sunchoke contains high levels of potassium, iron, magnesium, fiber and a host of other useful nutrients. And it’s a great food for the wonderful little microorganisms in your intestine that help you digest things, if not the tubor itself.
AND to reiterate from the beginning — they’re damn tasty!
Inspired by a magical soup concocted by the wonderful crew over at one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, Stateside, I decided to cook some Jerusalem artichokes up for myself. And my boyfriend. And boy did it turn out good. And also boy was it easy. Sunchokes are coming to a farmer’s market near you…so next time you notice an alien fetus lying next to the mizuna greens, pick up a pound or two. And make some soup. Or more specifically, make Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Sage, Bay Scallops, Crispy Spring Parsnip & Mixed Mushrooms, Chili Oil (and a side of chili toasts).
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Sage, Bay Scallops, Crispy Spring Parsnip & Mixed Mushroom, Chili Oil
gluten free, optionally vegan/vegetarian
- 1 lb sunchokes
- 1 parsnip
- handful of small wild mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, maitake, etc.)
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 shallot
- 1 clove garlic
- a lemon
- 1/4 cup white wine (preferably dry)
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or stock
- 1/4-1/3 cup grass fed milk or organic soymilk
- sage (fresh or dried)
- salt & pepper
- bay scallops (as many as you want)*
- liquid smoke (optional – but delicious)
- chili oil (optional – but delicious)
- ROAST PARSNIP: Chop 1/2 of the parsnip into small chunks. Toss with non-stick spray and a few drops of liquid smoke, if you have it. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until they’re toasty brown.
- PREPARE VEGGIES: Meanwhile, chop the celery and shallot, and crush the garlic clove. Rinse the sunchokes under cold water, scrubbing well with a brush. Chop into small chunks (don’t peel them) and toss with the juice from 1/2 the lemon (they oxidize quickly so don’t wait!).
- COOK THE VEGGIES: Heat a non-stick spray coated soup pot and add your celery and shallot. Saute until browned. Add garlic and saute a minute more. Add sage – about 1-2 tsp crushed up dried or 1-2 tbs chopped fresh. Allow sage to become fragrant and then add chopped sunchoke and saute for another minute or two. Add white wine, salt & pepper and allow to cook down for a few minutes, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add 2 cups of the broth/stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes or until sunchokes are tender.
- CRISP YOUR CHIPS: Meanwhile, slice the remaining parsnip into very thin rounds and slice your mushrooms into very thin slices (unless they are very small in which case you can just leave them whole). Arrange on a non-stick-spray-coated baking sheet and top with a little bit of dried sage, salt & pepper. Bake at 400 degrees until crisp (watch them closely and flip if necessary!). When crisp, let them sit on a paper towel to “dry.”
- BLEND YOUR SOUP: Once sunchokes are tender, add in the roasted parsnips from above and blend your soup with a high-powered blender if possible and a hand blender if not. Finish the soup with the soymilk and a squeeze of lemon juice (but feel free to add more broth/stock if the soup needs thinning).
- STEAM YOUR SCALLOPS: Place bay scallops in a steaming basket (or a strainer stuffed into a sauce pan, like I use), and steam over boiling water for about 3-5 minutes or until just firm.
- PLATE: Place scallops in the center of your bowl, pour the soup around, top with crisps, and drizzle with chili oil.
- SERVE WITH: chili toasts (aka drizzle some chili oil on nice bread and toast under the broiler until crisp!).