Sunday, December 03, 2006

Native to North America, the sunchoke (or Jerusalem artichoke) was one of the two most available vegetables in the U.S. during World War II (the other was the rutabaga). And this is my entry for this week's hosted by Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. The name confusion came about by early settlers to the U.S. who confused the Italian word for the plant 'girasola' with Jerusalem.

The root of a type of sunflower, this knobbly beauty is quite healthy, and a great substitute for potatoes. The sunchoke stores its sugar in as a starch not digestible by the body; the starch is called inulin (not to be confused with insulin). There are indications that it helps with blood sugar control.

The sunchoke has a light, sweet, delicate flavor, and can be cooked or sliced and eaten raw (adding to a green salad). When eaten raw it has a crispness reminiscent of jicima or water chestnuts. Because the starch is indigestible, it can cause some people side effects similar to eating beans. To lessen this effect, you can boil these a bit first and pour off the water before completing your chosen recipe (unless you are using them raw of course). They also discolor very quickly, so you'll want to use a bit of lemon juice to preserve their delicate white color under the skin.

When choosing sunchokes at the market, be sure to choose those which are not discolored or shriveled. Despite their former reputation for being plentiful, sunchokes can be hard to find these days. I had to go to three stores before finding any, and sunchokes are in season now! When you get them home, you can simply scrub and bake as you would with potatoes, or peel and use in other recipes. The knobs make it a bit hard to peel well. Be sure not to overcook these as they turn to mush if you forget them.

I made my sunchokes up in a gratin to share with you.

Sunchokes Gratin

1 lb. sunchokes
1 small lemon
Water to boil
Pam (or other non-stick spray coating)
about 3 tablespoons butter
3 oz. shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
Salt & Pepper

1. Wash in water and peel sunchokes, placing sunchokes as they are peeled in a pan of cold water with juice of 1 lemon squeezed in. The lemon/water mixture should just cover the sunchokes.
2. Boil the sunchokes in the lemon/water mixture for 5-8 minutes until almost done.
3. Drain the sunchokes and rinse quickly with water, then slice in even thickness and arrange them in one layer in square baking pan which has been sprayed with Pam.
4. Dot with butter.
5. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the sunchokes.
6. Bake in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes, or until done and covering bubbly as you like.
7. Remove from oven and salt and pepper to taste

Serves about 4.

I enjoyed mine with some chicken/artichoke/sun dried tomato sausages for dinner!

Also, I'm sorry about not replying back to comments this weekend, something has gone amok with my Blog publishing - all the login and editing buttons and instructions are in JAPANESE. Also there is something funny with the editor since it's definitely not WYSIWYG at the moment, looks like code mish-mash. Sooo, I'm trying to publish this post by editing in Google Docs (formerly Writely), and publishing from there. If it's not quite right, I'll correct the look later, when Blogger has been able to respond to my SOS. And I'll also get to responding to some of the comments.


Nocturne(神秘园) said...

I like it very much.

George Holmes said...

Hmmm. I do like Jerusalem artichokes, but because the sugar can't be digested properly it does increase your personal methane emissions somewhat

Lady Aeval said...

I had never heard of this veggie until an author brought us this story about a chef. Amazing the things you learn!

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Humm tasty :)
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aline__m said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Ang-ang said...

looks yummy

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orina3 said...

Hmmm! yummy! i like it.

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Anna Haight said...

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