Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichoke: Jerusalem Artichoke Chips w/ Rosemary Salt

The Mariquita Farms “Mystery Boxes” (actually, they’re really big bags) we buy twice a month are always filled with beautiful, in-season veggies in an extraordinary variety. The fun of the mystery is that you really don’t know what you’re going to get before you show up to grab the bag off the back of the farm’s delivery truck. And from time to time, we get something that we’ve never considered buying but have always been curious to try.

Such was the case with a recent bag that included a lot of Jerusalem Artichokes. We’ve seen them around. They’re knobby little tubers that look sort of like ginger root or galangal, have the texture of apple or Jíca

ma when raw and make for a delicious puree when boiled like a potato. Cooked, they have an earthier, sweeter flavor than potato, which is to say you get more of the mineral flavor of the soil they’re grown in. They aren’t a starchy veggie, so you don’t get the same fluffy, dry mouth feel you get from potato. Instead, they’re a bit waxy when cooked through. Eaten raw, they’re crisp and a little sweet thanks to their high fructose content. They’re delicious as an addition to your dinner salad.

Nobody knows how the plant got its name. This member of the sunflower family (hence the alternative name ‘sunchoke’ or ‘sun choke’) isn’t an artichoke, and it doesn’t come from the Middle East (it’s a North American native species). Aboriginal North Americans were cultivating and eating it when the first Europeans landed on our shores. It made its way to Europe in the early 1600’s and was quickly adopted on the continent. That’s about all we know about its earliest culinary uses. The bulbs are loaded with potassium and iron and they’re low carb/low glycemic diet-friendly thanks to their high inulin content.

We adapted a bon appétit recipe for Fried Sunchoke Chips with Rosemary Salt by toasting thin slices of Jerusalem Artichoke in the oven on an oiled sheet pan before sprinkling them with the herbaceous salt. We recommend getting them as thin as possible so that they dry as they brown. Our first go at oven roasting produced a softer chip because of the thickness of the slices, but they were sweet and delici

ous all the same.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oven Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Chips sprinkled with Rosemary Salt

1 lemon

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes

3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Mix the salt and rosemary together in a small bowl, set aside. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze one half of it in a bowl filled with fresh water. Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes until very clean; place them in the bowl of acidulated water. Thinly slice each tuber, about 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick, or as thin as possible. Empty the water from the bowl and dry. Add the sliced tubers to the bowl and squeeze the other half of lemon over the top. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. Evenly place the slices on the baking sheets in one layer, do not over lap. Lightly sprinkle the rosemary salt over the slices and place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes; then pull the pans out of the oven and begin to remove the browned and crispy ones from the pan. Rotate the pans and place them back in the over for 3-5 minutes. Continue to check the tuber slices and remove the crispier ones and place the lighter colored ones back in the oven. This will take up to 30-40 minutes. Consolidate the slices to one pan when there is room available. Sprinkle more rosemary salt over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

041812 asparagus 5

Asparagus: Pizza

Spring is truly sprung when those miraculous shoots of asparagus push their way up and out into the fresh air. Imported organic asparagus is available year round, but we try to eat the local stuff instead, when it’s available, and then move on to whatever comes into season next. Asparagus is full of vitamins (especially K), minerals, dietary fiber and protein. Like most veggies, it’s great both raw and cooked. We eat lots of it at this time of year when it’s at its most tender.

More often than not, we roast it whole on foil-lined baking sheets, tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with a little sea salt. Asparagus tastes like nothing else, so however you enjoy it, you really taste it. A random search for asparagus recipes drummed up over 41 million hits, reminding us that people have been eating it for thousands of years. It seems to love cheese and cream and butter, but then again, don’t we all. It’s confusingly infamous for not pairing well with wine, but we haven’t found that to be true. A bottle of your favorite Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling wine is a nice accompaniment to this spring veggie.

As veggie prep goes, asparagus is a breeze to clean, but stems that have grown “woody” need to be peeled before cooking. If you cook asparagus for a blended soup, you may need to strain the stubborn fibers after pureeing. Most blenders just aren’t up to the task of breaking them down.

The asparagus pizza recipe that follows was inspired by a delicious, seasonal pizza on the menu at The Plant Organic Café on the Embarcadero at Pier 3. Our tasty iteration is nothing like it, but the beautiful spring asparagus on both reminded us of why we miss the season when it’s over.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Roasted Asparagus, Arugula Pesto, and Feta Cheese Pizza

1/2  pizza recipe (see recipe below for pizza made with coconut flour or click here for our traditional pizza recipe)
1/4 – 1/3 arugula pesto (or homemade basil pesto, or gasp…store bought ;-) )
1 bunch pencil thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into half
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs

Optional items: raw walnuts, red pepper flakes, thinly sliced lemons,

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. After shaping the pizza on a baking sheet, spread the pesto over the pizza dough. Decoratively place the asparagus spears over the top, then add the crumbled feta cheese. Place in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and crack the two eggs on top of the pizza on each side, place it back in the oven for another 7-8 minutes.

For runny eggs, you’ll want to prebake the pizza for a longer time 4-5 minutes then add the cracked eggs and finish baking for an additional 6-7 minutes.

For hard yolks, you can place the eggs on top of the pizza before you place it in the oven and bake for the full 10 minutes, or so.

Pizza Dough made with Coconut flour
Makes 2 pizzas

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) coconut flour
1 teaspoon rapid rise yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 – 1  1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil

Food Processor Method:
Add the flours, yeast, salt in the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine. With the processor running, add 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons olive oil through the feed tube.

Process the dough for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The dough should come together as a ball. If the dough is too dry add 1 tablespoon of water at a time through the feed tube. The dough should be slightly sticky to the touch, and may look slightly textured and not completely smooth (this is due to the coconut flour).

Form the dough into a ball and place in bowl with the additional tablespoon of olive oil. Turn the dough to coat it in oil and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel, or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in volume 2-3 hours, or less, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

When ready, divide the dough in two and proceed to form the pizza. At this point you can stretch the dough with your hands or roll the dough out on a floured surface. If the dough becomes too tight and does not stretch, cover with a lightly damped towel, or plastic wrap and let it sit for up to 10 minutes to relax before trying to shape it. This dough is great for a thin crusted pizza. The thinner you can get the it without tearing, the crispier it becomes.

Bake the pizza in a preheated 500 degree oven with your favorite toppings for 10-15 minutes. Don’t overload the pizza with a lot of toppings and cheese, a little goes a long way.

Stand Mixer:
In a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix the yeast with the flours and salt. Add the water, 1 cup to start, and olive oil and mix on medium speed for about five to seven minutes. If the dough is too dry add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time. If too wet, add a little flour, again a tablespoon at a time. Once the dough comes together, coat the dough with the additional tablespoon of olive oil, and cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise until doubled.

When ready, divide the dough in two and proceed to form the pizza. At this point you can stretch the dough with your hands or roll the dough out on a floured surface. If the dough becomes too tight and does not stretch, cover with a lightly damped towel, or plastic wrap and let it sit for up to 10 minutes to relax before trying to shape the dough.

By Hand:
In a large bowl, add the flours, salt, and yeast, mix with a wooden spoon. Add 1 cup of water and 3 tablespoons olive oil, mix until will combined. On a floured surface, turn out the dough and knead by hand for 5-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and comes together in a ball. Form the dough into a ball and place in bowl with the additional tablespoon of olive oil. Turn the dough to coat in oil and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel, or plastic wrap, allow to rise until doubled, 2-3 hours.

When ready, divide the dough in two and proceed to form the pizza. At this point you can stretch the dough with your hands or roll the dough out on a floured surface. If the dough becomes too tight and does not stretch, cover with a lightly damped towel, or plastic wrap and let it sit for up to 10 minutes to relax before trying to shape the dough.

The Cheese Soufflé.

Sauce Béchamel: Cheese Soufflé

We’re egg eaters. We eat a lot of them. Lucky for us, we also love a good sauce béchamel. Béchamel is one of the “mother sauces” in French cooking (Hollandaise is another). It is the base white sauce from which many other sauces are created. Adding cheese to béchamel creates sauce Mornay, another classic sauce. Béchamel, Mornay, or Hollandaise can be served over asparagus in the spring,  over poached eggs for Eggs Benny (or Benedict),  on top of bread with vegetables or ham ala croque monsieur and can also be used as the basis for a gratin in the cooler months. And at anytime of year, we love it folded with fluffy egg whites and shredded cheese then baked into a toasted cloud. Poof, it’s a soufflé.

It took us years to take the soufflé plunge. We didn’t talk about it, but soufflé recipes seemed overly complex. But once we figured out just how quickly béchamel comes together – 10 minutes max – and how easy it is to hand whip egg whites, the rest of the work of a soufflé seemed a snap.

While simple enough, a soufflé requires that we all pay attention to a few little details to ensure that a lofty puff of pillowy custard comes out of the oven. The right sized cooking dish, properly beaten egg whites, a tasty base sauce and a hot oven are all that is required for soufflé success. If there is one soufflé rule etched in stone, however, it is that a soufflé waits for no one. It must be eaten piping hot and straight from the oven, served at the table in its baking dish.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cheese Soufflé Recipe:

Béchamel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 onion, skin and roots removed
1 bay leaf
1 clove
5 black pepper corns
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg

For the soufflé:
5 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, cheddar, Parmesan)

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the béchamel sauce:

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk with the onion, bay leaf, clove and peppercorns.

While milk is warming, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted, and before it browns, add flour and whisk thoroughly making sure no lumps form. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned in color.

Strain warmed milk and pour into roux while whisking, again being careful not to let lumps form. Grate a tiny amount of nutmeg into the sauce and salt to taste. Cook, whisking regularly, until sauce thickens, approximately 2 – 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set-aside until ready to use. At this point the sauce bechamel is complete and can be used many different ways.

To complete the soufflé:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack to the lowest setting.

Using a 2 quart soufflé dish and butter and coat the interior with two tablespoons of shredded cheese, fit the soufflé dish with a buttered baking collar made of parchment paper. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl with a hand-held wire whisk (OK, or in your KitchenAid stand mixer or with a hand-held blender) until they just begin to foam. Add a pinch of cream of tarter and a pinch of salt. Continue beating until whites form glossy peaks being careful not to overbeat.

Whisk the egg yolks into prepared béchamel sauce.

Fold one cup of the egg whites into the béchamel and egg sauce until just mixed. Pour the sauce into the bowl of whipped egg whites and gently fold until just mixed. While folding, sprinkle remaining grated cheese into the batter.

Pour soufflé batter into prepared dish. Set dish on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the top is a deep brown, 30 – 40 minutes, depending on the shape of your dish. Test the soufflé with a skewer, it should be clean.

Serve the moment it comes out of the oven by digging into the top at the center using two serving spoons. After all, Soufflé waits for no one.