Sunchoke velouté… a summer-worthy winter soup!

Yes, I know, we are in the heart of summer and even though I read everywhere about stone fruit recipes and ice creams and salads, I dare post a recipe for soup. I am compelled to do so for no other reason than the fact that I recently found some nice sunchokes at my local market. And sunchokes simply beg to be creamed into a scrumptious velouté (fancy word for creamy soup). I found this out when savoring (and then making at home) an unforgettable truffle sunchoke velouté on a truffle-centric trip to Dordogne a few Februaries ago.

I have a thing for roots (more on roots here)… and this one has a very unusual, delicate flavor, similar to that of an artichoke; and for good reason, it is also called Jerusalem Artichoke. In France, it is one of what they call the “légumes oubliés”, the forgotten vegetables… Who new rutabaga, parsnips and kohlrabi could be so poetic? They’re often winter root vegetables used a lot for watery soups during World War II. For this reason, my mother has a very unhappy association with a lot of those vegetables, one that takes her back to times of poverty and struggle. Perhaps this is the case for a lot of people of her generation, which may be why those vegetables became “forgotten”. It could also be because they do not lend themselves to mass production and distribution. They’re difficult to cultivate on a large scale, take longer to cook or prepare. So in our society of immediate gratification, those veggies were left behind. Today, more and more people want more variety in vegetables, new flavors, and the forgotten veggies are making a comeback!

I had never made sunchokes for Pablo before last week, he was very unfamiliar with the taste, and only took a couple of spoons of the soup. It’s a matter of trying again and again (remember, offer something at least 15 times before you rule that your child doesn’t like it!) The grown-ups loved it so much they were quite happy to eat what Pablo didn’t… It is amazing to me that this beast of a root can turn into such a beauty of a soup!

I may be spoiled in California with most vegetables being available local, organic and year around. Is it the case where you are? Does anyone else cook roots (except for beets) in summer? Would love to hear about your recipes!

Sunchoke velouté

Inspired from a recipe found on Elle à Table

Age: 6-8 months (be sure to have your child taste shallots with another known ingredients in case of any allergies.) Sunchoke can also be made as a simple puree (see recipe below), from 6 months on, just like artichoke. It does cause gas in some cases, so monitor your child to see if he digests it well.

Health benefits: Sunchokes are very high in fiber. They also contain vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium and are a very good source of iron.

Serves 3-4

1 lb sunchokes
1 shallot
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp of whole milk yogurt (or sheep’s milk)
A drop of truffle oil (optional – for 12 months and older)

Peel the sunchokes. They are a pain to peel, but that’s about the most challenging part of this recipe! Cut them up in pieces.

Peel and dice the shallot (don’t cry, it’s ok!) Put the diced shallot in a dutch oven with the olive oil on low to medium heat, let it “sweat” without browning.

Add the sunchokes and add enough water to cover them. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the temperature and simmer for about 45 mn, until the sunchokes are soft (check them with a knife like you would a boiled potato).

Put the whole thing in a blender and mix. You can let cool and refrigerate for later, or serve right away.

When serving, reheat if needed and add the yogurt, and truffle oil if desired.

Related recipe:

Sunchoke puree (5-6 months): Peel, dice and steam the sunchokes for 15 mn, until soft. Mix with some milk to obtain desired consistency. (You can mix with some boiled potato for a milder taste).

PS: Just added “Vegetable” to the food sign list, check it out!

Sunchoke gratin dauphinois recipe

It took parenting and cooking to teach me how to live my life.

This sentence could very well be a description for this blog. That’s what I’ve been wanting to share here: parenting, cooking, life (and a French touch). Not necessarily in that order. Their connection never ceases to amaze me.

What I mean by that, is that the meaning meat of life, the secret to happiness and fulfillment, the secret to no-regret-living, is to live for, and by, the journey. Or the process. (Journey’s a pretty word for process, really.) Or at least, I’m pretty sure it’s a big part of it.

And as life would have it, parenting and cooking are
both process-oriented experiences. In fact, they
are experiences that only work if you
focus on their process, if you’re able to enjoy their process. If you’re able
to trust their process
.

Through both, I am learning to let go of expectations, to be
present in the moment, to nurture instead of control. For both, I am finding that learning
from others and trusting one’s own instincts is not contradictory, but complementary.
Thanks to both, I am learning to be attuned to myself and to the world.

I’ve been struggling to write for many years. Wanting to, and
yet finding it excruciating, or myself incapable of it. But I see now writing
is much like cooking and parenting. It’s all about the process too. The end result,
well… it’s not what matters most. And it shouldn’t be the motivation for it. If it is, it comes out shallow, inauthentic, mediocre. Just like cooking to impress. And how absurd – and damaging – would it be to have a child only for the picture-perfect lawyer or doctor we would like him to become?

We must live for living’s sake, cook for cooking’s sake, eat for eating’s sake, write for writing’s sake, and nurture for nurturing’s sake. A thing that is an end in itself, is always worthwhile.

So I am writing,
here, finally. Perhaps I couldn’t write before I learned that lesson. Parenting
and cooking might have just made a writer out of me. How wonderfully and
poetically surprising life can be, when our minds are open enough to take it in.

I could bitch about how I wish I learned these things earlier
in life. And I do sometimes. But to heck with hindsight, it was just part of my journey to learn it this way. And the onslaught of spring is making me feel optimistic. The jasmine has burst out into the night air, heavy enough to carry the mockingbird’s relentless nocturnal song of seduction. (I can hear him in the darkness as I’m writing these words.) So I wanted to say it: I am grateful for this unforeseen revelation,
this new understanding of life. I’m just so glad about it. And when one is glad,
one should say it. Or write it. Share it, in short.

Or cook it. And can I just say gratins are a perfect way to
share gladness?

I have blogged about sunchokes before, we have enjoyed many
sunchoke soups this winter, simple ones and fancy ones, and I recently cooked
them in a gratin for the first time. This is a twist on the classic French potato
gratin. A very tasty twist indeed. I hope you enjoy!

Sunchoke gratin dauphinois

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes de Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme

Serves 4

Prep time: 30 mn
Cook time: 65 mn

Age for babies: 10-12 months

2 lbs sunchokes (try to get larger ones that are not too quirky shaped, for ease of peeling and slicing)
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 whole garlic clove
4 tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup heavy cream (or crème fraîche)
2 eggs
2 pinches of ground nutmeg
3.5 oz of grated Swiss cheese (Comté is a good one. Manchego works well too, or other flavorful hard cheese)
Salt & pepper

Peel the sunchokes, putting them in cold water as you go. Then slice them either by hand or with a mandoline or with the slicing accessory of your food processor.

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

In a medium pot, bring the milk and bay leaf to a low boil, remove from heat, cover and let cool to lukewarm.

Peel the garlic clove. Rub your baking dish with 2 tbsp of butter, and rub the bottom of the dish with the garlic clove.

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl. Remove the bay leaf from the milk. Whisk in the cream, the eggs, the nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Place one layer of sunchoke slices in the baking dish, pour some of the milk/cream mixture on top, sprinkle with cheese, then add another layer of sunchokes, pour the rest of the milk/cream mixture and sprinkle the rest of the cheese (do one more layer of each if needed). Top with small dabs of butter, and bake for 1 hour.

Check if the sunchokes are done with a knife, should go in easily, like for a potato.

We have served this as a side dish with a roasted chicken, or a duck stew. Or it can be savored on its own with an endive salad.

Celeriac sunchoke soup

There’s something magical about soup. Something about finding a perfect osmosis of ingredients. About creating such an interesting dish, in color, in texture, in flavor, such a delicate dish from the rough fruits of the earth. The French word “velouté” for soups says it all (basically a soup that’s blended and smooth). It means “velvety“. How inviting. Sensual even. 

In more practical considerations, it is such a great way to start a meal, it makes the perfect vegetable first course, so easy to make, and convenient (you can make ahead, freeze). Yet you can get really creative with the combinations, with the accompaniments, from crème fraïche or heavy cream, to coconut cream to pesto. Infinite possibilities. It has been quite the fun food for Pablo as he has learned to drink from his bowl. And a perfect way to introduce new flavors, new vegetables. (With the warm season, I’ll be making more and more cold soups as well.) 
So sometimes I share poetry, sometimes inner ramblings, sometimes parenting thoughts. And sometimes, I like to share lists. Because they’re kind of useful, right? So I’d love to share 10 soups we’ve really enjoyed recently. Nine + 1 recipe here. In no particular order.

… and this celeriac sunchoke soup recipe I’m sharing today.

Do you have any great soup recipes or links to share? Please do so in the comments! Let’s form a soup exchange! 🙂

Hope you have a lovely week, scroll down further for Pablo’s menu this week…

Celeriac sunchoke soup with cilantro hazelnut pesto

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Age for babies: 6 months and up (skipping the pesto at first).

1 shallot, minced

1 tbsp butter

1 celery root, peeled, cut up

1 pound of sunchokes, peeled, cut up

6 cups of water

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Handful of fresh cilantro

3 tbsp of hazelnut oil

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook over medium heat until translucent (don’t let them brown).

Add the water, celery root, sunchokes, salt and pepper, bring to a simmer, cover and cook over medium low for about 20-25 mn, until the vegetables are tender. 

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender until very smooth.

Put the cilantro and hazelnut oil in a small food processor and pulse until cilantro is finely chopped. 

Pour the soup in bowls, and with a small spoon, stir in some of the cilantro pesto. Add additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Brie de Meaux, Goat brie, Petit Basque (sheep).

DessertsAt lunch, I offer a fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt with fresh fruit), but at night, I prefer sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime.

If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).


MONDAY

Lunch 
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber in creamy tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Ham & hard boiled egg (one of the pink ones from Easter :-)),  flageolets beans French-style (leftover from Easter lunch!)

Goûter (4pm snack) – Chocolate pudding

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Butternut leek fennel soup
Main course: Buttermilk-brined chicken thighs, fingerling potatoes

TUESDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Boiled leeks with vinaigrette
Main course: Mushroom prosciutto Comté cheese tartine*

Goûter – Pear-blueberry compote

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green bean, cauliflower, tomato salad
Main course: Bison patty and creamy rosemary carrots baked in parcel*

WEDNESDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Grated carrots French-style
Main course: Trying this harvest (sweet potato, chards, onion) tart recipe found on Food Loves Writing

Goûter – Apple-mint compote

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Spring pea salad
Main course: Albacore with avocado and cilantro, baked in a parcel*

THURSDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leftover grated carrots French-style
Main course: Sardines, baby bok choy puree

Goûter – Mango compote

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Artichokes with vinaigrette
Main course: Oven roasted mustard pork tenderloin, peas & carrots jardinière

FRIDAY – VISITING RELATIVES FOR THE WEEKEND

We’ll see what good things we find to eat! Perhaps urchin and oysters at the San Diego Farmer’s Market?