Friday, December 30, 2011

Roasted Sunchokes

"Sunchokes" were on the list I found of in-season produce for December in my area.

Great!  Something besides kale to eat!

But what the hell is a sunchoke?

A sunchoke, I learned by Googling, is the tuber of a sunflower, and it's also called a Jerusalem artichoke.  They can be eaten raw or cooked.  [And they sometimes cause gastro-intestinal upset, like beans.  Beans don't bother me, so I figured I would plow ahead.]

I had never heard of a sunchoke before, but it's amazing how things you never noticed can suddenly appear in the grocery store as soon as you decide to look for them.  Were they always there, always in plain sight?  Has everyone else been eating sunchokes all along?

In my interview with Happy Herbivore earlier this month, I asked, in a round-about way, what on earth I should do with a sunchoke.  The vegan cook book author's advice?  Skip the sunchokes and stick to foods you know.

Good advice, perhaps, but I'm too curious by half.

I decided to try them, and to do the one thing that seems to make all winter root veggies delicious: roasting.

While pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees, I scrubbed my nubby, little sunchokes and then cut them into bite-sized bits.

[Having read that they could be eaten raw, I couldn't help but take a nibble.  Not bad.]

I spread them out on a baking tray and coated them in olive oil.

I then sprinkled cracked black pepper over them and roasted them for about 35 minutes.

The came out with a smooth, potato-like texture and a sweetness I didn't expect.  They taste bizarrely like artichoke hearts, but leave a funny, almost plastic-y after taste.

They have such a unique flavor, in fact, that I think they will take some getting used to.  I think the verdict is still out on whether or not I liked them.

Either way, though, I'm glad I tried them.  Variety is the spice of life...and there isn't that much variety this time of year, so I'll take what I can get!

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