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The Jerusalem Artichoke

aka the sunchoke

When we conjure inspiration for a meatless antipasti spread, we think of hardy starches that give hungry carnivores like us something to work with. The Jerusalem artichoke, also known as the sunchoke, is substantial but with a delicate flavor unlike potatoes. Despite its name, this versatile ingredient has nothing to do with the artichoke. In fact, one theory suggests that the name derives from the Italian word girasole, meaning sunflower, for its physical resemblance. The Italian word was later turned into “Jerusalem” by lazy English speakers who butchered its pronunciation. Later, the “artichokewas added (on account of similar taste) and the “Jerusalem artichoke” was born.

 

In the 1960s, North American farmers discovered that sunchokes grow best in sunny spots, much like their cousin the sunflower. When purchasing this edible tuber, look for knobby, pink skin, similar to that of ginger root. These knobs are unavoidable and not indicative of quality. But do avoid soft spots, wrinkles or sprouting in the roots. Sunchokes keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, however once prepared, they need to be eaten within a week. The acid in this recipe will prevent discoloration, allowing you to stretch the lifespan a bit.

 

There’s a reason grapefruit is dubbed winter’s sunshine when it appears in the dead of the season. A single grapefruit packs a lot of punch as a natural cold fighter, arriving when we’re most susceptible to catching illness. The citrus keeps well in cold storage, so it can be found in supermarkets year-round. But growing season peaks from October through May. A tried-and-true indicator of a juicy grapefruit is if it’s heavy for its size with smooth rather than bumpy skin.

 

If you’re not into the rawness of sunchokes in this recipe, you can also serve them as you would potatoes: peeled, boiled and pureed. You can also leave the skin on and fry sunchoke chips. Another of my favorite methods is to poach the sunchoke until tender then flash-fry it to create a crispy shell around a creamy interior. It is the perfect antidote to winter blues.

 

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Get the recipe for Sunchoke Carpaccio with Almonds and Grapefruit here!

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