[ vegetarian improvisational peasant fusion cuisine for the 22nd century ]

Thursday, November 02, 2006

cooking can be god: nash's farmshare nov 3rd 2006

Live in Dungeness: The Jerusalem Artichoke

Politics aside, everybody loves it. And the etymological twist -- avoiding any mistaken references to the aphids, now, that the heat has cooled -- is that it's not even from that other, holier, land. Rather, like bygone tomatoes and last week's corn, the jerusalem artichoke (helianthus tuberosus) is a native North American, well-suited to lands from Georgia to Nova Scotia before any colonist or king dared to dream of the American Empire. The "sunflower artichoke" was semitically mistaken due to its Italian name, "girasole", which sounds like a hallowed city if you pronounce it poorly enough. Rather like the evolution of "Seguin" to "Sequim" in our own valley's twisted historical scrawl.

We plant the sunchokes (welcome to efficiency and the modern world, friends. You may take a number.) in April and generally wait until the familiar frost to harvest. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday kicked the 10 foot plants (and many others) into shape, killing leaves and sending sugar down to the roots. In this case, much of the sugar comes in the form of inulin, a carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, well-suited to diabetics and those seeking a natural, mild, appetite suppressant.

Flavor, however, is for everyone who hasn't relinquished sensual desire, and the sunchoke indulges in myriad forms. Grated, sliced thinly, roasted, baked, sautéed, and steamed, it sweetly satisfies. Use it fresh to simulate water chestnuts on your next stir-fry, or steamed and mashed with herbs when you're out (sick?) of potatoes.

If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to put sunflowers in your hair

If you're going to San Francisco
You'll meet some special produce there

Roasted Sunchoke Soup

So your erstwhile culinary correspondent somehow woke up in a California farmer's market that seems bigger than our hometown farm. Produce from all climates and attitudes and yet all of it, somehow, local. Giggling breakdowns over November strawberries behind me, I found myself face to window with a starred SF restaurant whose soupe de jour involved the peeled purity of Jerusalem Artichokes and a dollop of hot and heavy cream. Agricultural incomes and dress codes conspired to keep me on the wintry side of the window, but chances are I pieced it together from there...

peeled jerusalem artichokes
half as many peeled yukon gold potatoes
a couple of onions
a cup of fresh cream

Slice your tubers together to pieces and steam then in some salty water. After eight minutes and thirty seconds (give or take a phase of the moon), bow your heads in prayer for Nash and Patty, lost in a foreign land. Silence lost, test the tubers until soft and tasty but not mushy. Drain, preserving some of the water, and blend to consummate smoothness.

If they're too hot to handle and you're too cool to bluff, sauté your onions in the newly liberated pan (using a gentle quantity of light olive oil) until translucent. Keep the fire to medium or less, taking your time and warming up with the roots. Know that parsnips can substitute for potatoes, in the coming months and years. When the onions are soft and threatening to brown, add the tuber puree and stir together. Let them acquaint before diluting with fluid -- water, stock, and preferably (this time around, for the sake of thickness and protection against fog) some cream.

slivered almonds
dark olive oil

Let the soup simmer together casually, and take great care with your garnish. The almonds can be roasted until their thinness becomes crispy, the chives finely and carefully diced, and the olive oil drizzled atop after serving.