Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunchoke Soup with Apples & Lentils

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Sunchoke Soup with Apples & Lentils
Serves: 6
Sunchoke Soup with Apples & Lentils

Sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes, are traditionally a winter beauty – for their flavor, but not their physical appearance. Squat and knobby, the tubers aren’t artichokes at all, but part of a species of sunflower that grows underground. We are blessed to find them readily available year-round. They have a nutty, sweet, crunchy flavor with subtle hints of artichoke heart and salsify. 

You do not need to peel them; the skin is edible. Simply scrub them clean under cold running water with a stiff brush. You can cook them like you would a potato; roast, boil, sauté, bake or steam. The surprising thing about these particular roots is that you can also eat them raw. They add great texture to salads and stir-fry’s. Unlike the potato, they contain little starch. It is so incredible that something so gnarly turns into something so approachable and delicious. So don't pass these craggily little roots next time you’re in the store. This is my second sunchoke recipe—the last one made it into the Huffington Post! (see

The star of the show: Sunchokes

In this recipe, sunchokes are featured two ways: pureed into a silken soup, and diced and seared in a garnish that also includes black lentils, diced apples and chives. I think it is important to add a second texture to soups when you can. Otherwise palates get bored after a few bites. Before pureeing the vegetables, simmer them with just enough liquid to soften them without diluting their flavor. No extra fat or starch bogs the soup down; its creamy richness comes from the sunchoke itself and the emulsified garlic and onions.
  • ¼ C black lentils
  • Pinch of salt, plus more, to taste
  • 4 Tb olive oil (divided)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly sliced
  • 2 lbs. sunchokes – reserve 2 for garnish - peeled if you like and cut into ½ inch coins
  • 8 C vegetable stock or water
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 10 coriander seeds
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tb peeled, minced ginger
  • White pepper, to taste
  • ½ C apples cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 1 Tb chopped chives

Set a small pot of water, about 1 C, over high heat and bring to a boil. Add lentils and simmer until the lentils are just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and taste for seasoning and drain. Set aside.
Uncooked lentils

Meanwhile, make the soup: set a deep pot over medium heat and swirl in 2 Tb of oil. Add onions, leeks, shallots, garlic and celery. Sweat until softened and translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add sunchokes and sweat until slightly softened, 1-2 minutes more. Add enough stock to just cover the vegetables and raise the heat to high. 

Veggies ready for the soupe
Wrap spices (star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick) and ginger into a cheesecloth, secure with kitchen twine and add sachet to pot, or place all in a tea infuser and place in pot.  Once soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer steadily until sunchokes are fork-tender, 20-30 minutes.
Spices in the tea infuser

While vegetables simmer, assemble garnish: Peel and cut reserved sunchokes into ¼-inch dice. Set a medium pan over medium heat and swirl in remaining oil. Once hot, sauté diced sunchokes until tender and golden all over, about 5 minutes. Mix the sautéed sunchokes with cooked lentils, apples and chives. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.

Sliced sunchokes

Once vegetables have simmered, place a sieve over a large bowl and pour soup through to separate vegetables from stock. Discard sachet and reserve the stock. In a robust blender (such as Vitamix) or a food processor, puree vegetables until smooth. Return pureed vegetables to pot and stir in enough stock to create a loose yet creamy consistency. Bring mixture back to a simmer and season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Soupe before garnish. Note the thick texture.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and place a large spoonful of sunchoke-apple-lentil garnish in center of each bowl. Serve while hot. Other garnishes to consider: toasted pumpkin seeds, croutons, bacon, oysters, drizzle of olive oil or creamy sautéed mushrooms. They would all be delicious.

Now sit back and enjoy your creation. Nutty, buttery, sweet, earthy – sunchokes are a singular tuber that is best when focused on alone in order to appreciate the fine nuances of flavor. This is a refreshing healthy alternative to cream based soups that features lots of flavor, and very little fat.



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