Savor Jerusalem artichokes in a simple, winter-perfect soup

Jerusalem artichoke soup is a cold-weather comfort food. C.W. Cameron for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: C. W. Cameron

Credit: C. W. Cameron

Jerusalem artichoke soup is a cold-weather comfort food. C.W. Cameron for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

My cold-weather comfort food is any root vegetable roasted, sautéed or mashed.

Carrots, beets and sweet potatoes get the most attention. However, it was a recent purchase of Jerusalem artichokes from the Rodgers Greens and Roots farm in Douglasville that put that underutilized tuber back on my radar.

Jerusalem artichokes pair deliciously with other vegetables available at this time of year. When she cooks them at home, farmer Ashley Rodgers likes to grate the artichokes with potatoes, to make what she called “surprisingly good” hash browns. She also roasts them for a soup made with a little homemade stock and cream.

You might know Jerusalem artichokes as sunchokes, a name that probably refers to the plant’s sunflower-like flowers. Their sweet flavor reminds some of artichoke hearts.

This plant, native to America, is especially nutritious, because it contains no starch, but is high in inulins, a great source of soluble fiber. The inulins also mean that consuming large amounts of Jerusalem artichokes can act on your digestive system as beans sometimes do, causing bloating or gas. So, if you’re new to them, start with small quantities.

My introduction to Jerusalem artichokes wasn’t in a soup or roasted, but as Southern Jerusalem artichoke relish, cooked in a classic pickling mixture of vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric and cayenne, and including lots of chopped onions. I love this relish on sausages and hot dogs, and I always put out a little dish to accompany a cheese board.

I see Jerusalem artichokes available at many local farmers markets, as well as the Buford Highway and DeKalb farmers markets.

The artichokes generally are tan or cream-colored. There’s no need to peel the thin skin, but a thorough cleaning with a vegetable brush definitely is required, since bits of dirt can hide in the crevices between the bumpy knobs. Store them wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and then wash only when ready to use.

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP

This simple soup was inspired by “Soup: A Way of Life” by Barbara Kafka (Artisan, 1998).

I like a pureed soup to have garnishes that offer a bit of contrast, so I top mine with small cubes of toasted sourdough bread, crisped bits of fresh sage and slices of browned Jerusalem artichokes. You can make the soup a little richer by adding up to a half-cup of heavy cream.

The perfect side is a grilled cheese sandwich, spread with a bit of cranberry chutney.

Note: For nutritional calculations, the salt included is defined as 1/16 teaspoon.

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