Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dug Up

It’s the season to be digging up dirt-encrusted tubers that have spent the heat of the summer hiding underground. I use to peel everything that has spent its time maturating below the earth but I have given up on that habit. Now, I am more apt to give the vegetable a scrub under water with a vegetable brush or new nylon pad than risk peeling away a lot of the nutrients that exist just below the outer skin of many of these vegetables. And, really can a little dirt harm you.

There is one tuber that hangs around through the autumn that is referred to as sun-chokes or Jerusalem artichokes. Its latter name is quite misleading for it has no relation to the Mediterranean thistle that is the iconic bud of spring. No, this tuber, which is indigenous to North America, is a member of the sunflower. It was brought to Europe and it is a derivation of the Italian for sunflower, girasole that gives us its common reference.

Try buying the least knobby ones, as they are easiest to clean. They should be very firm with a slightly brown mottled outer skin. Once cleaned, the sun-chokes tend to oxidize so in order to prevent that hold them under water, or toss with some lemon juice.

Rye Berry and Jerusalem Artichoke Salad - yields 8 servings

1/2-pound rye berries
1/2-pound Jerusalem artichokes
1/4 pound mixed sprouts (chick pea, lentil and sweet pea)
1/2 pound baby spinach - washed and dried
1 small red onion - diced
2-tablespoons summer savory - leaves only chopped
1-tablespoon thyme - leaves only chopped
1/2-cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4-cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the rye berries and 6 cups of water to a boil over high heat in a 4-quart saucepan. Cooked covered with water for 30 minutes, or until tender to the bite.

Scrub and dice the Jerusalem artichokes into 1/4 inch rounds and mix with the sprouts, spinach, onion, savory, thyme, vinegar, mustard and oil. When the rye berries are cooked drain off any excess water through a colander, and then toss the hot rye berries with the vegetable mixture. Let cool before serving. This salad is great the next day cold.

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