Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eating Out An Asphyxiated Solar Mass

Ok, that one was a bit of a stretch? What can I say? I've kept the pun running for almost a full year now! That's right, in 2 days it will be the 1 year anniversary of Eating Out Fresno! Hard to believe that it’s been a year since I took the dare to get off my creative butt and start babbling food guff to the interwebs. That’s over 64 Eating Out innuendos! My Mom is sooo proud!

So, the subject of this week’s rambling intercourse is on sunchokes, or the jerusalem artichoke. I go with sunchoke mainly because they’re actually a starchy root bulb of a type of sunflower. And man, oh man, do I love when these lovelies are in season! They impart a light, crisp sunflower seed flavor to just about anything and are about as versatile as waxy potatoes like reds.

So far, I’ve only got one tried and true recipe for them. Mainly because I love the recipe so much, none survive long enough to be made into anything else! And since we dragged a wagonload home from the farmers market, it was time for a special rustic style home cooked feast, featuring egg salad sandwiches, a homestyle tomato vegetable soup and the fabulousness that is sunchoke gratin.

Egg Salad Sammitches (this is a gimme just in case you’ve never made your own)

6 boiled eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dill
2 tablespoons pickle relish
Dash of red wine vinegar (just a tiny wee dash!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the eggs in half and place the yolks in a bowl, reserving the whites. In the bowl with the yolks, add the remaining ingredients and mash together with a fork until you have a moist dressing, then chop the egg whites and toss into the yolk mixture. Stir thoroughly and serve on toasted bread.

Rustic Tomato Vegetable Soup

2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 large purple (or regular carrot) diced
1 stalk celery diced
1 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic
2 peter peppers (or other hot pepper) diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch red chili flake
2 tablespoons olive oil

First sauté your shallots in olive oil until glassy. About 5-7 minutes. Then add in your celery, carrots, garlic and seasonings. Toss and sauté for an additional minute then add both cans of tomatoes and the chicken broth, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the carrots and celery are soft. Blend in batches or hit it in the pot with your stick blender until you have a smooth tomato soup. Add additional chicken broth if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Serve…in a bowl.

Sunchoke Gratin

1 lb sunchokes, peeled and sliced 1/8th inch thick
2 cups, + ¼ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup walnuts
1 pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a med size casserole dish with butter. In a pan, combine sunchokes, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, salt and 2 cups of cream. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Mix cornstarch with the remaining ¼ cup of cream and add mixture to the pan. Simmer an additional 5 minutes to thicken. Allow to cool for a moment then pour into your casserole dish. Top with panko crumbs completely, then sprinkle walnuts over the top. Into the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and toasted. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Serve by scoop/slicing pieces out with a serving spoon as you would a casserole.

Who says you can’t eat fresh and hearty in the winter? The soup has a wonderful spicy sweetness to it from the peppers and the carrots mixed with that great fruit/vegetable flavor of the tomatoes. The egg salad sandwich is perfect for toning down the burn from the soup and has a nice dill tang. And I just can go on enough about how wonderful the sunchoke gratin is. The layers of sunchoke give a nice soft bite with a little bit of resistance left of their original crunch. The walnuts and the sunflower seed flavors weave in and out of the cream, ginger and garlic with just small hints of the nutmeg popping up to unify everything together. If you try one of the 3 recipes, that’s the one you can’t live without.

So, happy cookering dear Fresno peoples! I’m still not sure how to celebrate the anniversary. But we’ll figure something out. Maybe we’ll offer some peter pepper seeds and seedlings as a prize for some odd contest. Maybe a Fresno wide culinary scavenger hunt. Give some vague hints about ingredients at certain locations and see what you all wind up cooking. This bears some thought!