Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Northwest Flavors: Jerusalem Artichokes

In the spirit of local food, this is the first of a new monthly recipe post featuring something in season and available at our Pacific Northwest farmer's markets.

This month several farmers at Northwest farmer’s markets are selling those knobby, lumpy tubers commonly called Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes. Did you assume they are related to artichokes?

Side by side, what do you think?


My brother John grows these in his Willamette Valley garden, but doesn’t harvest the root. But since they are so odd-looking and endearingly homely, I had to figure out a good way to use them besides as just a potato substitute. Plus they are good for you!

Last year I noticed a recipe for them in one of my favorite cookbooks (by one of my favorite cookbook authors, notice my copy is a little dog-eared from use): Local Flavors by Deborah Madison.

With the combination of sunchokes, globe artichokes (just coming into local grocery stores in the last couple weeks from California), shallots, and lentils, this braised dish makes a tasty and savory supper tossed with buckwheat soba noodles.

Try making this when you have a leisurely time frame, which for me is usually on the weekend. After dismantling a couple big artichokes to get down to the heart and stem, chopping, sautéeing, and simmering, a few hours passed before dinner was ready. I guess this qualifies as a Slow Food dish, but relax and enjoy the process!

Here’s the recipe, which I’ve adapted from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors.

Artichokes and Sunchokes Braised with Lentils

½ cup dried French LePuy lentils or black Beluga lentils (hard to find but worth it – in Seattle get them in bulk at PFI), sorted and rinsed

2 large globe artichokes

Fresh-squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon

6 to 8 sunchokes, scrubbed

4 medium shallots, peeled and sliced 1/3-inch thick

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 minced garlic cloves

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

Optional 1-2 tablespoons butter

Chopped parsley

1. Cover the lentils with 2.5 cups water in a medium sauce pan, add ½ t. salt and simmer until tender but not mushy. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.

2. After pulling off all the leaves and cutting off the fuzz to get to the artichoke hearts, dice the hearts and peeled stems into little pieces about ¼ inch.

As you go, toss the pieces into a bowl of water with the lemon juice.

Dice the sunchokes into slightly larger pieces.

3. Heat a large sauté pan, and then add the olive oil, followed by the chopped artichokes, sunchokes, and shallots. Sauté for about 5 minutes, then season with ½ t. salt and fresh ground black pepper, add ¾ cup of the reserved lentil cooking liquid. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Keep moist with more lentil broth if needed.

4. Add the lentils, marjoram, and more broth if needed to keep a bit of a sauce quality. Simmer for about more 5 minutes while cooking the pasta (next step).

5. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles for 3 to 5 minutes, checking to make sure they are al dente and not mushy. Drain and set aside for a couple minutes. (Note, I’ve tried the 100 percent buckwheat, but they’re just not as easy to work with as most brands that are a mix of wheat and buckwheat.)

6. Right before serving, stir in butter if used (I never do), and serve tossed with freshly cooked soba noodles or pasta of your choice. Top with parsley (I used chives snipped from my yard because I didn’t have parsley) and freshly grated parmesan.

I like this with a fresh greens salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. The lemon also brightens and balances the earthiness of the sunchokes and lentils, so you might even serve with lemon wedges to taste. I'd pair it with a dry wine white like a sauvignon blanc or pinto gris if you want to imbibe.

Buon gusto!

Farmer's Notes
I got my shallots from Anselmo's at the Ballard Farmer's Market. They specialize in wonderful alliums (garlics, leeks, onions, shallots). I get sunchokes from Stony Plain Farm, which sets up at numerous farmer's markets around the Puget Sound region.


Barry said...

I am so going to cook this recipe this weekend. Thanks, Jill!

TC said...

Wow, jerusalem artichokes look like raw ginger. We'll have to try 'em...TC

Jennifer said...

How COOL! I will most definitely try the recipe - it looks wonderful! My mouth is watering! I saved this until I got a report in to word processing - a nice treat for me!

John said...

Good article, Jill. Last Fall Angela tried serving Jerusalem Artichokes to her family on Thanksgiving, diced and cooked with a little olive oil, but they weren't very popular. Maybe she'll try your recipe next time.

jill said...

Barry and Jennifer,
I hope you enjoy the recipe - let me know what you think if you make it.

Todd, yes, they are roots like ginger only very different flavor.

John - ha, at least Angela tried using them. I think they need the company of more distinct flavors like artichokes and lemon.

Anonymous said...

I was just looking for a recipe that included lentils - thx for the idea Jill - Mab

Marie said...

Beautiful post, Jill! Makes me want to go out and find a Jerusalem artichoke!!

Mary said...

Jill, I checked out your blog and your most recent article looks wonderful. Mab's correct, the photos are great and the recipe looks yummy. I like the combination of your adventures and the receipes in your blog. It's you Jill!