I consider myself to be quite an adventurous eater.  Over the years, my tastes have developed and I have grown to love and appreciate a number of new ingredients – olive oil, basil, balsamic vinegar, mangoes, celery, and fennel – just to name a few.  (For the most part, these ingredients were introduced to my daily eating after my family moved to the United States from Russia).

I’m a big fan of discovering the new flavors.  Last week, I discovered sunchokes – also known as Jerusalem artichokes.  What’s funny, is that this root vegetable has nothing to do with artichokes or Jerusalem.  The sunchoke is a root of a certain sunflower plant.  In its raw state it has a very crunchy, juicy texture, similar to that of a water chestnut.  When cooked, sunchokes develop a richer, earthier flavor, similar to an artichoke. This explains the “artichoke” reference in the name.  But why Jerusalem?  Apparently, the Latin name for the sunchoke sounds similar to Jerusalem.  I will let you be a judge of that.

How to deal with sunchokes?  Buy them!  Make sure they feel heavy for their size and are firm.  Instead of peeling them with a vegetable peeler or a knife, use a spoon!  That’s right – I said to use a spoon.  That’s the way I peel ginger – it’s easy and takes just the skin, leaving all of the flesh for you to enjoy.

For my first cooking experience, I decided to mix sunchokes and potatoes together and make mashed potatoes of sort.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the taste of the sunchokes would come through – but it did!  I’m quite a fan, and hope you will be one too.

Sunchoke and Potato Puree with Caramelized Onions

Ingredients

1 pound Yukon gold or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 pound sunchokes, peeled and cut into chunks
4-6 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half, hot
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Directions
1.  In a large saucepan, cover potatoes, sunchokes, garlic cloves, and bay leaf with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium and simmer until potatoes and sunchokes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.

2.  While potatoes are cooking, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions, pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until onions are soft and tender.

3.  Drain potatoes thoroughly and return to pan, discarding bay leaf.

4.  Set the pan over medium heat and add milk or half-and-half and olive oil. Mash with an old-fashioned potato masher or large fork, adding additional milk if needed to reach desired consistency. Stir in onions, salt, pepper, and parsley.

Give this a try.  If you have a different way to enjoy sunchokes, please share!

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