Using a little-known starchy vegetable with a few basic aromatics makes a uniquely flavorful Roasted Sunchoke Soup.
Also known as Jerusalem artichokes or earth apples, the sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is a tuber best known as a variety of sunflower if allowed to germinate, and has no association with either Jerusalem nor artichokes. It was cultivated for centuries by Native Americans (with a great capacity for storage, lasting for years if not planted) and briefly domesticated by Europeans before falling out of favor as a food crop in modern times.
Similar in appearance and texture to a potato, the sunchoke is uniquely high in the carbohydrate inulin (as opposed to insulin), leading to their reputation as a folk remedy for diabetes. This gives the sunchoke a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and a crunchy texture when raw similar to an apple. Their high fiber content also tags them with an unfortunate reputation of gassy results when eaten.
The skin is thin enough that sunchokes do not require peeling; a simple scrub and wash is sufficient. As tubers, they can be used or substituted for starchy potatoes in most any dish, lending their mild nuttiness and soft texture when cooked instead of the more neutral russet. They are also versatile enough to be served raw, roasted, fried or boiled.
Aromatics such as garlic, leeks and onions are a natural flavor pairing. Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas).
Roasted Sunchoke Soup
1 lb sunchokes
½ yellow onion
1 clove of garlic
4 c vegetable broth
½ c half-and-half
1 Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2 Scrub the sunchokes clean (it is not necessary to peel them) and let drain. Roughly chop the sunchokes and toss with a little oil, then bake for 20 min.
3 Chop the leek and onion, and mince the garlic. Sauté in a little oil until soft, about 5-10 min.
4 Add the sunchokes to the onion mix along with the broth. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 min.
5 Purée the soup in batches until smooth. Stir in the dairy, and season to taste.