It’s time for a little English lesson.
Restive. Irregardless. Superfluous. Jerusalem artichoke. What do these words have in common? They sound like they mean one thing, yet are actually something altogether different. The English language is full of such confusion, if you think about it. And guess what? Jerusalem artichokes are neither from Jerusalem or are even artichokes. Why they have the name they do is a bit of a mystery.
So what are these tubular, ginger looking things? Let’s start with taste. They’re earthy, sweet and a bit nutty. You won’t find the starch, like in a potato, and they don’t quite cook up the same way either. It’s more complex of a flavor and in my opinion, only slightly comparable to the taste of an artichoke. Though they grow easy enough (almost like a weed), they remain somewhat unknown or unpopular, but I think they’re worth giving a shot.
It might seem strange, but they’re actually the tuber of a sunflower. Their blossoms tend to turn towards the sun, like a sunflower and that’s why I like to refer to them as one of their more fitting, alternate names – sunchokes. Locally, you’ll find them grown by Heleba Potato Farm of Center Rutland.
- 1/2 lb pasta
- 1 lb sunchokes
- 1 medium onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 springs rosemary leaves, chopped
- splash of white wine (optional)
- 1 tablespoon butter
This was my first time cooking sunchokes and knowing that they cook up somewhat quickly, I used them for a fast pasta dinner. You can use any pasta you like or even a grain. Barley is a good option.
Start a pot of well salted water for the pasta and wash the sunchokes by rinsing in water and scrubbing with a clean towel. They’re too knobby for efficient peeling.
Slice the sunchokes somewhat thinly across, along with one onion, and saute in oil over medium high heat, stirring often. By the time the water is boiling and you add in your pasta, you can also add the zest of one lemon, two minced garlic cloves and two springs of chopped rosemary to the sunchokes and onions and continue cooking. You’ll find that the sunchokes won’t cook evenly and this is normal.
When the pasta is al dente, drain and reserve 2 cups of the cooking water. If using the wine, pour into the sunchoke pan and stir to deglaze.
Either way, add about a a cup and a half of the reserved pasta water to the sunchoke pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for a couple of minutes until the liquid has thickened into a sauce then toss in the pasta, the butter and stir to coat. Taste and adjust salt, if needed. Save the remaining pasta water and use when reheating any leftovers.