- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

A seasonal vegetable can often serve as inspiration for a recipe. Young spring asparagus, summer heirloom toma-

toes and fall’s copper-hued sweet potatoes have all been sources of creativity in my kitchen.

During the winter months, though, I see less to spark my imagination. The other day, though, while looking at winter produce at a local supermarket, I saw a display of Jerusalem artichokes, or, as they are sometimes labeled, “sunchokes.”

It had been several years since I had purchased any of the brown, knobby tubers, which are not truly artichokes but, rather, members of the sunchoke family. I remembered well the delicious, slightly sweet and nutty taste of the cooked vegetables.

I also recalled that this vegetable does not come from Jerusalem. The name is derived from the Italian word “girasole,” which means sunflower.

I placed two packets of sunchokes in my cart along with some leeks and before leaving the store, I knew that my purchase would be turned into a soup.

At home, I peeled and diced the sunchokes and chopped the leeks. Both were sauteed in butter, then simmered in chicken stock. After 20 minutes, the vegetables were fork tender and ready to be pureed. I used half-and-half to enrich the soup, then garnished each serving with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

A few days after I served the soup to my family, a good friend called to suggest that we plan and cook a winter dinner together. She wanted to prepare mustard-glazed salmon fillets and roasted vegetables and asked if I had any thoughts for the first course.

It took me only a few seconds to propose the latest addition to my culinary repertoire. On the night of our get-together, I knew it was a good choice when I saw more than one person go out to the kitchen for seconds.

Cream of Jerusalem artichoke soup

2¼ to 2½ pounds Jerusalem artichokes

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only

6 cups chicken stock

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more if needed

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed

1 cup half-and-half

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

4 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Peel Jerusalem artichokes using a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Then cut them into 1-inch dice.

Heat butter in a large, nonreactive pot over medium heat. When melted and hot, add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add diced artichokes and cook, stirring, 1 minute more.

Add stock, salt and pepper, and bring mixture to a simmer.

Lower heat, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree mixture using a food processor, blender or food mill. Then return pureed soup to pot in which it was cooked.

Stir in half-and-half. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. The soup can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat soup over low heat, stirring often.

To serve, ladle soup into 6 soup bowls. Sprinkle each serving with a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and a little parsley.

If desired, garnish each serving with a grinding of black pepper. Makes 6 servings.


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