Along the Grapevine


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Sunchoke Lemon Pesto

DSC01298We have had a few light frosts already but the ground is wet and unfrozen. This means it’s the best time to harvest some of my favourites, among them sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes. I have written several posts on these tubers, but if you are not familiar with them, refer to this post.

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The wonderful thing about sunchokes is that they taste just like actual artichokes. Also, they grow easily and are available from October till April at any time the ground is not frozen solid. They are inexpensive and if you have your own source, they are free!

On the downside, they do not store well. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but are best very fresh.  Once cooked, they have to be consumed within a day or two, and never try to freeze them. I have found drying and fermenting the best way to preserve them – until I came up with my latest sunchoke recipe, a pesto made with herbs, roasted sunchokes and roasted almonds. This kept well in the fridge for a week, and after that I froze the remainder, and neither the taste nor the texture suffered as a result. The artichoke flavour came through perfectly, and the lemon flavour and herbs were a delicious combination. Pine nuts, walnuts or filberts would work just as well, and as for herbs, use what you like and have on hand.

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Sunchoke Lemon Pesto

Ingredients

1/3 cup roasted sunchokes

1 cup lightly packed herbs (I used half and half mint and basil)

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup roasted almonds

juice of 1 lemon

a strip of lemon rind (optional)

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil

Method

Chop the nuts and herbs in a food processor. Blend in  the other ingredients, except the oil. Once everything is combined, add the oil slowly until you have the right consistency.

Like all pestos, this goes well with any kind of pasta. No need for cheese here, unless of course you really want it.

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Spread on crackers or bread, it makes a super and easy little snack.

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And it stores well!

Linked to Fiesta Friday #95

Related posts: Jerusalem Artichokes

Potato, Leek and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli

Coconut Lime Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom and Black Walnut Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi

Jerusalem Artichoke Tea Biscuits

Jerusalem Artichoke and Fennel Soup

Sunchoke and Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Sunchoke Dip

 

 

 

 

 


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Sunchoke and Cauliflower Pizza Crust

If you happen to have any Jerusalem artichokes in your garden and you know where they are, now when the top layers of soil have finally thawed is the best time to harvest them. If you don’t have any of your own, you might find some at your local farmers’ market. This is a picture of my patch just before the snow melted – just a few dried up stems from last year.DSC01937

And here is what I dug up last week. DSC01960 DSC01963

Once I scrubbed them, sliced and dried them in a dehydrator at 135 degrees F for about 4 1/2 hours until they were crispy dry, I ground them, first in a food processor and then for a finer grind in my coffee grinder. This is what the resulting flour looks like. It would be lighter in colour if I had peeled them, but since they were freshly dug and the peels still very thin and light coloured I just prepared them skin on. DSC01819

This is an excellent way to store and use Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes). It keeps well and can be used in all sorts of savoury recipes and as a flavourful thickener for sauces and stews. In this form, they are less likely to cause any of the awkward digestion problems that cause some people to avoid them all together. I decided to make a gluten-free pizza crust with this batch combined with dehydrated cauliflower. By drying the cauliflower too, you get a stronger flavour from the vegetable and no juices to extract. Just rice the cauliflower and set your oven or dehydrator to a low temperature to dry it gently as with the Jerusalem artichokes. Once dried, grind it into a flour. For the pizza dough I used: 1/3 cup sunchoke flour 1/2 dried cauliflower 3 Tbsp coconut flour 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed 1 cup water Simply mix it in a food processor and form into a bowl. Roll out into the size and shape you want. Add whatever toppings you want and bake it in the oven as you would for any pizza until the edges start to turn a golden brown. DSC01825

I used pesto, grated cheese and some dandelion capers, but then I still had my cast on my arm and wasn’t going to make it complicated. I could not fool anyone into thinking this was a bread crust, but then why would I want to? The taste of artichoke and cauliflower combine to make a very light and easy to eat crust, and when you want to take a break from the wheat for a bit, this is a wonderful solution. I am sharing this novel pizza with all the party-goers at Fiesta Friday, graciously hosted by Angie from The Novice Gardener, co-hosted by Ginger at Ginger&Bread and Loretta at Safari of the Mind.


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Fermented Sunchoke Dip (Vegan) for Fiesta Friday’s First Anniversary

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It’s Friday, and that means it is time to head over to Angie’s place at The Novice Gardener for Fiesta Friday. This week is even more special though, since it is the 52nd, thus completing a full year of fun, recipe-sharing and meeting dozens of talented bloggers who all contribute to making this such a popular and successful event. To mark this milestone our fabulous hostess Angie is dedicating two weeks to the celebration. This first week we are asked to bring the starters, i.e. drinks and appetizers, while next week we will present the main dishes and desserts. I have noticed there has been a lot of buzz over the past few days, so I expect it is going to be a smash. You are welcome to join us and bring an original dish of your own by Wednesday. Just follow the simple guidelines as outlined here. If you haven’t prepared anything, you are still welcome to come and join the party where you will see what all the buzz is about.

As co-host, along with my compatriot from the west Julianna at Foodie on Board, I will try to make myself useful, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

I would also like to extend a big thank you to Angie for organizing this weekly party. She has been such an inspiration, and provided a venue where we have been able to make new friends, share ideas and support for one another, and jolly up the whole blogging experience for so many. I therefore suggest we help ourselves to a drink and toast our dear host before going any further!

And now for my offering to the celebration. It is an appetizer to be served with crackers or vegetables, inspired by that ever so popular recipe for artichoke dip. I have made mine with fermented Jerusalem artichokes, a rich (creamless) creamy dip with lots of flavour and healthful at the same time.

I have been using Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, quite a bit, but some readers are still not convinced to eat them. I took the recipe for the ferment from this post where the problems of sunchokes are candidly outlined, and it seems that fermenting them resolves the problem. I believe it!

If you are not familiar with this odd little vegetable, this is what it looks like.

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Once I fermented a jar of them, the dip was simple enough to make.

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I used one part sunchokes, 1/2 part raw cashews soaked in water, and 1/4 part steamed and chopped greens. I used Swiss chard, but spinach, kale, arugula, or just about any green would work well. I blended the drained nuts and sunchokes until smooth, and then mixed in the greens. There is enough flavour and seasoning in the ferment that you need add nothing else, other than perhaps a little garnish of paprika or sumac powder.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli

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We finally received our first snowfall of the year last night, just after I rescued every bit of green from the garden. The Jerusalem artichokes should remain accessible until we get a really hard frost, but I still had some in the fridge to use up before I bring any more in. As a result, my offering to Fiesta Friday this week is a mixture of these and some of my fresh greens.

I have been pleased to see that several blogs I read are making use of these tasty little tubers, but there still are not a lot of recipes out there for them. If you are hesitant to eat them, I recommend trying them in moderation and well cooked.

My first ravioli recipe is made simply by mixing cooked Jerusalem artichokes with flour. I used bread flour because I wanted to make sure it was strong enough. It makes a very elastic dough, and was the easiest pasta recipe I have ever made. I didn’t even need to use my pasta machine, as the dough rolled out very easily. It is also nice and stretchy, so making the ravioli was very easy. I had no breakage at any point during the process, including during the boiling stage. It is very important to work on a well floured surface so that things don’t stick, and as long as you do that, these can be made in very little time.

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There are many fillings that would work with these, but I wanted to use my last harvest for the season which included arugula, Swiss chard, kale and sorrel. You will probably have a different combination of greens than I have, but there are so many you could use, alone or in combination – for example beet, turnip or carrot greens. I made my standard style pesto knowing that any extra I had could be frozen for later use and it is one of the best ways to preserve these delicate leaves.

Jerusalem Artichoke Pasta


Ingredients

2 cups cooked peeled Jerusalem artichokes

1 3/4 cups bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice (optional)

Method

Puree the Jerusalem artichokes and salt. Add the flour gradually until it forms a clump of dough. It will be a bit sticky at this point. Wrap it in parchment and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Divide the dough in two and roll out one half at a time on a well floured surface to the thickness of a thin pie pastry. Cut out circles and place on board or plate also covered with flour. Place a dollop of filling on a circle, then cover that with another circle. Seal with the tines of a fork all around.

Drop a few at a time in boiling salted water. When they come to the surface, in about 2 minutes, they are ready. Drain and set aside. Serve as is, or top with grated cheese or your favourite pasta sauce.

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Pesto

Ingredients

4 cups fresh greens

1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts)

1/4 cup oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic

Method

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.


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Coconut Lime Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

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I made Jerusalem artichoke (or sunchoke) chips last year, and was so pleased with the result that I had to try it again this year, now that the tubers are ripe for digging up. They should be even sweeter after a little more frost, but if I wait too long, the ground will be too hard and many will go to waste. These vegetables are not usually eaten in large quantities, but a few little crispy chips are really very easy to eat, and unless you overdo it, you should not have any ill effects. Fried snacks should only be eaten in moderation anyway.

If you are not familiar with these, you might see them in some farmers’ markets and good grocery stores at this time of year. They are not really artichokes, but rather of the sunflower family, and have a distinctive artichoke flavour. They grow beautifully in a sunny area, produce year after year with absolutely no care whatsoever, and provide bright yellow flowers in the fall when most other flowers are shutting down. Roasted, boiled or fried, they make a delicious side dish, but I dry most of mine, which makes storing them easy. Once dried and ground into flour, they make a great thickener for sauces and can be added to lots of savoury baked recipes.

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I am bringing these chips flavoured with lime and coconut oil to Angie’s 37th Fiesta Friday, which I will be co-hosting with fellow-Canadian and co-host extraordinaire Julianna of Foodie on Board. Feel free to visit Angie’s site, and see what the guests bring this week. If you are still looking for some original recipes for your Canadian Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, I am sure you will find something perfect for the occasion.  Should you wish to bring a dish along to the party, first read the guidelines here.

To make the chips, just follow these steps:

1. Slice the Jerusalem artichokes very thinly, as you would for potato chips. If they are fresh, no need to peel, just give them a good scrub. If the skin has become brown and thicker, then it should be removed.

2. Place in a bowl and pour freshly squeezed lime juice over them so that each slice is covered, and add a little grated lime zest for extra flavour.

3. Place them on a baking tray and put in a barely warm oven until they are no longer soaking wet. They will still feel damp, but most of the juice will have evaporated.

4. Heat the coconut oil, and fry just a few at a time, until they are golden brown. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.

5. Serve while still warm. If they are left at room temperature for a while, they will lose their crispness, in which case just reheat briefly in the oven on a tray until they crisp up again.

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The flavour of lime makes these Jerusalem artichoke chips extra delicious, although lemon could also be used. They don’t even really need salt.


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A Backyard Forager’s Pasta Dish

Pasta is a great dish when you want to be creative, or even when you don’t have much in the pantry. With a few pickings from our garden, lawn and fields, I decided to make a vegan, gluten-free pasta dish using Jerusalem artichokes, wild strawberry leaves and chives. I was pleased with the effect of the artichokes and lemon juice in creating a creamy white sauce with no dairy products. As for the greens, you could use any of your edible wilds or not so wilds, but I wanted to try the wild strawberry. I learned that all parts of wild or cultivated strawberries are edible, and since our wild plants are plentiful and don’t give much fruit, why not use the greens instead. For more information about identifying, using and finding resources, check out this site.

If you do decide to use strawberry leaves, there are a couple of points worth mentioning. First, as always, be sure you have identified the greens properly. They are pretty easy to spot, but be sure you know what you are picking. The other point is that, while these leaves are most often used in making tea, they should be eaten only when dried, or very fresh. Once the wilting process has begun, they enter a stage of non-edibility until they are perfectly dried. So that is something to bear in mind if using them.

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Most articles I read said that they are edible, but not really tasty. I beg to differ. They are mild, with a pleasant citrusy after taste. Not remarkable, but certainly nutritious, especially rich in vitamin C. If not sure, sample a leaf or two. This is always a good idea anyway to make sure you don’t have any problem if it is new to you, and you can decide if you want to add them to your dinner.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Sauce

1/2 pound Jerusalem artichokes, boiled and peeled

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup blanched almonds

1/2 cup almond milk

1/4 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor. Heat the sauce gently, without boiling. Add some chopped chives and strawberry leaves, and then mix in half a pound of cooked, hot pasta (I used quinoa spaghetti). The flavour of the artichokes worked very well as a cheese substitute, but feel free to add cheese, or anything else, to suit your own taste.

 


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The best part of foraging is that you can harvest without ever planting a thing, and harvest before you have even had a chance to plant. My seeds for my vegetable garden are just beginning to sprout now inside the house, and it will be some time before any of them are useable, and I face a lot of work before any reach maturity. Meanwhile, wild greens are quickly making their appearance, and I don’t have to walk more than a few feet from my back door to find something tasty, or at least nutritious and green. That’s a good thing, considering it’s snowing outside as I write this, and the ground is just plain muddy. Luckily I picked a few leaves yesterday to add to a vegetarian curry of sorts. I am not suggesting you make curry necessarily – just to be aware that these harbingers of the growing season are already there for the picking, to be used in soups, salads, stews, baking, or wherever you want them.

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L to R nettles, dandelion, creeping charlie

I picked only three varieties for this dish: nettles, creeping charlie or mallow and dandelions. The total amount was about two cups, but enough to green-up my dish.

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These are all common in this area, relatively easy to identify, and impossible to over harvest. However, it’s still worth remembering two of the basic rules of foraging: always make sure you have identified the plant correctly and be sure to pick only from clean, non-treated areas .

Dandelions.  These are the easiest to identify and are super abundant in spring. My very first post was on dandelions and the dandelion pesto in it lasted me all winter. I will no doubt be posting more dandelion recipes this spring, but so far the pickings are slim. The leaves are so young and tender that they do not yet have the strong bitter flavour that I am looking for, but they offer such a load of nutrients, I wanted include them even now.

Mallow or Malva. This is another mild flavoured green which I have only recently started to use. You can read more about its identification and uses here. Again, it is more for its nutritional value than flavour that I use it. The roots are edible too, and I hope to figure that part out soon. I have also pickled the seeds in the summer to make something resembling capers.

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Creeping charlie can be used instead of mallow. They are similar in appearance, easily confused and interchangeable as far as the leaves go. To identify this plant, this site will help.

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Stinging Nettles. I found two recipes calling for nettles this morning just going through my regular blog mail, including this one for pesto and this one for spring rolls. As long as you are careful to pick these with sturdy gloves to protect you and then immediately dry, grind or blanche them to remove all the sting, these are really very easy to pick. Dried for tea is a popular use for them, but I like them in place of spinach, cooked the same way, quickly and with little water. My nettle patch is just getting started, but it has spread considerably since last year, so I hope to be able to experiment liberally with it. I will also keep chopping at it as there seems to be one school of thought that once it flowers, the leaves become more toxic. Not sure if that is so, but better to be safe.

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My curry was made with chick peas, onion, a home-made curry mixture, carrots and freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes. I added the greens just before serving, giving them only enough time to wilt.