Monday, November 10, 2008

Jerusalem Artichokes

A few weeks ago, we ate at the new restaurant Poppy where, I have to say, I was a little disappointed in the meal. But, I had the most incredible soup and have not been able to stop thinking about Jerusalem artichokes since. I found a recipe for a soup that sounds quite different from the one I had but no less intriguing.

This is the first time I have worked with Jerusalem artichokes which, as it turns out, have nothing to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes. They actually are part of the sunflower and look like ginger root. As I was buying the four pounds I needed for soup to feed 10, I started getting carpal tunnel just thinking about peeling all of those buggers. Thankfully, the books I consulted said to just give them a good scrub instead of a peel. Phew! I cut them into a small dice and roasted them in the oven where they proceeded to smell like french fries - always a good sign in my book.

The soup I had a Poppy had the most incredible velvety texture that can only come from time in the blender. One of my least favorite kitchen tasks (a list coming to this blog soon...), is to blend soups in the blender. Unless you wait until it completely cools down, you have to be incredibly careful that the lid of the blender doesn't blow off and spray soup all over your ceiling. Even if you don't have that lovely experience, you still end up dirtying another pot or bowl putting the blended soup into while the un-blended soup waits in the original pot - not to mention the blender. I HATE doing more dishes than absolutely necessary.

Enter the immersion blender. This wonderful tool allows you to basically stick your blender into the soup pot. The only extra thing to wash is a small wand with a blade. I have had one since 2000 and it is one of my most used kitchen tools. I use it, not only for soup, but also to crush canned tomatoes,
right in the can. It's genius.

Just a few weeks ago, I got mine out to puree something and it had gone and died on me. I was actually surprised it had lasted as long as it had, seeing as I use it quite frequently. My parents bought it for me about 8 years ago, when there weren't many models on the market. Mine came from Williams-Sonoma and their name was actually on the side of the blender. I thought I would bring it back to them since I have had excellent customer service there in the past, and just see what was what. Incredibly, they could look up the records of when my parents bought it and tell me how much it cost at that time. It has been years since they have attached their name to this product so they offered me a new Breville one for the whopping price of $1 since mine originally cost $98 and this one cost $99.

I love the idea of shopping at local kitchen stores. There are two decent ones I can think of in Seattle. But with customer service like this, it's hard to walk away from Williams-Sonoma.

The one complaint I have about my spanking new immersion blender is that it is battery operated so it needs to be charged before using it. Since I don't use it that often, it's never charged when I need it. So, when I went to puree this soup today - and I was fighting daylight so I could take a picture - I ended up putting it in the blender after all. Because of the Jerusalem artichoke skins, I didn't end up with a perfectly smooth puree - even using the blender. But I always like a little bite in my soup so I didn't mind at all.

Spinach and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Adapted from
Easy Vegetarian Cookbook
Serves 4

14 oz. Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes), chopped into
3/4 inch pieces
Olive oil

Kosher salt

1 leek, white and pale green part only, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Splash of white wine

4 cups vegetable stock

6 oz. fresh spinach

Juice of 1 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss Jerusalem artichokes with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Roast for about 15 minutes, until starting to brown.

2. Saute the leek and garlic in a little olive oil over medium heat, for 3-5 minutes, until soft but not brown. Add the white wine and continue to cook for a further 3-5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced completely

3. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and vegetable stock and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Add the spinach and fresh lemon juice and blend - either in a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender, and until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Beatrice said...

I've never cooked with Jerusalem Artichokes, either, but I remember reading about them in "Stalking the Wild Asparagus." Did you find them at a farmer's market, or at a store? (Or harvest them from the roadside yourself?)

Dana Treat said...

Hi Beatrice - I actually found them at Whole Foods! They are a fall vegetable so should be relatively easy to find.

Emily Rose said...

I have never heard of Jerusalem Artichokes- now I'm trying to think about trying to get out to Whole Foods today! The soup is such a beautiful green color! What a fascinating recipe- thanks so much for posting it! Oh and I have definitely fallen victim to the hot soup blowing the top off the blender incident before!

Emily Rose said...

yay! I'd love your kugelhopf pan- but only if you're sure you want to part with it! I will email you my address. Thank you so much!

Pam said...

What a beautiful color! I've never had Jerusalem artichokes before. It's a rainy and cold day today, perfect for a soup like this.