Along the Grapevine


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Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi

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Jerusalem artichoke gnocchi with crusted squash slices

And so begins the first of my experiments in making pasta with Jerusalem artichokes. Although you can buy the flour at some health food stores for an exorbitant price, there are still few recipes out there which use it. It seems that, so far, its only use is to take it as a remedy or food supplement rather than treat it as a worthwhile food in its own right.

So I made gnocchi, with the flour, and with gluten-free (rice) flour. Of course, you can use wheat flour too, which in fact would make the rolling process a little easier, but I wanted to make sure that a gluten-free version was feasible, and even tasty.

Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi

2 cooked potatoes (about 10 oz)

2 eggs

1 cup rice flour

1/2 cup Jerusalem artichoke flour

1 tsp. salt.

Mash the potatoes thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat or at least stir vigorously. Gradually add the flours and salt and mix until all the dry ingredients are blended in. Knead it a bit until it sticks together well.

Roll out about a lemon-sized bit of dough at a time into a rope, and cut the rope into pieces of about 3/4 of an inch.

Cook a few at a time in boiling water. When they come to the surface (it only takes about a minute) spoon them out with a slotted spoon.

100_0889To make the sauce, I heated a little oil and butter in a frying pan, added some onion or shallots, garlic, fresh thyme and sage, and after a couple of minutes added the cooked gnocchi and fried until the gnocchi were lightly browned.

Any other pasta sauce would work well. They would be good I think with either a tomato or cream sauce with lots of herbs, olives, cheese etc.

I served mine with crusted squash slices, based on a recipe I used from Yotam Ottolenghi, which he calls Crusted pumpkin wedges with sour cream. I made a few changes, which is why my picture looks different from his, i.e. much darker. For bread crumbs, I used purple bread, which is something I will explain in a future post, but if you don’t have any of that handy, just use bread crumbs of your choice. I also used powdered sumac instead of zest of 1 lemon, but in case you have run out of sumac, feel free to revert to the lemon.

For the squash, I used a peanut squash. This was the first year I grew that variety. I like it because its little peanut shapes all over the skin are amusing, but you can use any kind of squash you like.

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Peanut squash

Another variation on Ottolenghi’s recipe is that I had some corn husks on hand instead of aluminum foil. He recommends that if the crust starts to get overcooked before the squash is done, place some foil on it. Without wanting to sound too sanctimonious, I do not like using aluminum, so I have frozen some steamed corn husks for purposes such as this. They are compostable, water-proof, and free. However, there was no need for it after all, but I just wanted to share this tip with you. You could use, should you have them, any non-toxic leaf, such as grape leaves.

Recipe for crusted squash

1 1/2 lbs squash, skin on

1/2 cup grated parmesan

3 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs

6 Tbsp chopped parsley

2 1/2 tsp finely chopped thyme

1 Tbsp sumac powder

2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and white pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the squash into 3/8 in. thick slice and lay them on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment.

Mix together the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, sumac, garlic, salt and pepper.

Brush the squash generously with olive oil and sprinkle with the crust mix, making sure the slices are covered with a nice, thick coating. Gently pat the mix down a little.

Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 30 min, or until the squash is tender.

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Crusted squash slices

I served the gnocchi on a bed of steamed malva and dandelion leaves, taking advantage of the last days I was able to pick greens from the garden. By tomorrow, they will all be covered in the white stuff according to the weather forecast. To accompany the squash, I mixed fresh chopped dill with plain yoghurt instead of sour cream.


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Jerusalem Artichokes

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After we moved into our current house four years ago, I had to plant some of the basic edibles I had left in our old property – things like horseradish, lovage and jerusalem artichokes. A kind vendor from a market in Toronto gave me a handful of chokes, and from those I now have two good sized patches. As for the lovage and horseradish, I can’t remember where I planted them, and hope they make their presence known to me somehow eventually.

The artichokes are more difficult to lose. They grow about five feet tall, and as they are of the sunflower family, they have easily recognizable yellow flowers blooming at this time of year. They are also a natural deterrent to weeds, so they don’t get covered or overwhelmed by other invasive plants.

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Because they multiply so easily, they can be found growing semi-wild. If you suspect you have some, pull out a root, and if there are knobbly white tubers attached to it, that’s it.

I love the ease of growing them, as well as their flavour (very much like artichokes). Boiled, roasted, sauteed or grated raw, they are a welcome change from other carbohydrates, especially with a little lemon and salt.  However, they are so prolific that you may not be able to use your entire crop. They don’t keep well after picking – two or three weeks in the fridge wrapped in plastic and paper bag over that. Once cooked, they really should be used within a day or two, and don’t bother trying to freeze them – don’t know what it does to them, but it is not pleasant.

They do not need peeling, just a good scrub, and any rough spots grated off. Especially if done right away, they clean very easily, and are a nice creamy white.

Jerusalem Artichoke Flour

So in order to use as many as I can in the fall and keep them through the winter, I have taken to dehydrating them, then grinding them into a flour. Just how this flour can be used, I have yet to find out over the next few weeks. So far, I have used it as a thickener in soups and sauces, but hope to have some results from my baking experiments soon.

Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

In the meantime, I discovered that the thin slices I was preparing to dry (and had way too many to fit into the dehydrator) could also be transformed into crisp, delicious chips. I fried them in coconut oil, a few at a time, and just long enough that they were caramel coloured all over and starting to curl up a bit. I added a little salt, and that was that. Apparently others have done this, but it was new to me! Other recipes suggest other types of oil, which I’m sure are fine, but I am recommending here the coconut.

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