When I first discovered Jerusalem Artichokes I didn’t know quite what to do with them. First I didn’t know what they tasted like, or what went well with them. It turns out they’re nutty, sweet and earthy. Something to be tried, not just described.
They look like dirty, knobby pieces of ginger root. They’re nothing like artichokes, and they’re not even from Jerusalem. Go figure. They’re also called sunchokes, which makes a bit more sense. For people into etymology, apparently the name ‘Jerusalem’ may have come from a bastardization of the Italian word for sunflower, ‘girisole’, since the vegetable is actually related to the sunflower, not the artichoke. It would take someone with extremely poor hearing to mess up ‘girisole’ (pronounced gee’ ree’ ZO’ leh’) with Jerusalem, though, so I’m not convinced. Like celeriac, they make a great substitute for mashed potatoes, but they also make a great soup.
The only problem is they’re really, really annoying to clean. Try using a spoon to scrape away the skin, instead of an actual vegetable peeler. The silky smooth txture of the soup is worth it. Make this on a Sunday with a friend, when you have time.
I made this soup for the first time a year ago and reveled in the wonders of girisoli. They’re often hard to find and unless you have a good source for them, they can be expensive.
There’s a reason you don’t see them so often in restaurants. Can you imagine being the guy who peels 20 lbs of jerusalem artichokes? It took me 45 minutes to do 2 lbs, for a soup that serves 9 or 10. That’s about 7 hours of peeling artichokes to make a restaurant-sized pot of soup…that poor, poor prep cook. Potatoes can be done a whole lot faster, and don’t cost as much. So if you’re going to substitute something for potato, you substitute celeriac (also easy to peel), or parsnip. But for now, soup!
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, diced
2 lbs Jerusalem Artichokes, peeled and sliced (scrub to knock off big pieces of dirt, but do peel them. All of them. Be patient.)
4 cups vegetable stock or water (You can actually get away with using just water in this recipe. Stock is better, but the flavour of the artichokes is strong enough on its own as long as you add enough of the other ingredients, especially lemon juice and garlic)
a pinch of Saffron threads, crushed (I forgot to crush them…that might have helped a little, especially if I’d been brave enough to use less stock and more water)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp almonds
3 tbsp water
1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds
1/4 cup water
Directions: After you peel the artichokes this is so simple. Sauté the garlic and onions for 5 minutes or so in the olive oil over medium-high heat (they shouldn’t brown, so if they start to brown add water. This is what Bonnie says, not just me being finicky about not using too much olive oil).
Add the sliced and peeled artichokes, and cook for 3 minutes before adding the broth to cover. The broth amount is an estimate. All the artichokes should be covered by about 1/2-inch to 1-inch of broth, depending on how thick you like your soup. You can always add more water after the puréeing stage, or you can boil some extra liquid off. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.
Bring the stock to a boil and add the spices (salt and pepper to taste. The salt amount will depend on the broth you used, so don’t just throw in a bunch without tasting it first).
Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the jerusalem artichokes are tender. This will depend on the size of your slices. They need to purée smoothly.
Purée the soup in batches, or with a hand blender and return it to the pot. If the soup is too watery, now’s the chance to boil off some liquid. You don’t want to boil it again after you’ve added the lemon juice. It’s also the time to add more broth or water if the soup is too thick.
Add the tablespoon of lemon juice and taste to see if you need to add more. I needed more. Almost 2 1/2 tbsp, actually! You definitely don’t want to go overboard with the lemon, though, and it’s hard to get rid of the flavour if you’ve added too much, so be careful and test it after each small addition (maybe a teaspoon at a time).
Now the cool part: Blend the blanched, sliced almonds and water (no need to clean the blender before this step). Then pour the mixture into the soup. In raw food this is pretty standard (making cream out of nuts, though it’s probably done with a very different process). The natural nutty flavour of the jerusalem artichokes matches well with the almonds, and the nuts make this a much more satisfying, filling soup. A meal soup, instead of a snack of diluted, seasoned Jerusalem Artichokes.
For an elaborate presentation, serve the soup into bowls before you add the almond cream, and drizzle it on the soup like a crème fraiche, to give a marble swirl. Completely dairy-free!