Double S and I went to the (relatively) recently reopened Phoenicia in West Seattle last week. To my Seattle friends…recommended! From the street, Phoenicia looked so nice and inviting. There’s something about chalkboard menus that do something for me.
To start we got the charcuterie plate, and it did not disappoint. The charcuterie plate included salami from Salumi, and Zoe’s finocchiona (Salami flavored with fennel. Delish!) and coppa. Then it had some pickled items: Cornichons (I effing cannot get enough of cornichons lately. Seriously.) and various other pickled veggies. The cured meats were delicious. Salumi, if you don’t know, is a salami shop in Seattle owned and operated by Mario Batali’s dad. Yep, the large dude in the shorts and crocs.
His pops cures and ages meats the old fashioned way. The line is always around the block, so get there early, get a sandwich and buy some to take home. You won’t regret it.
Anyway, the charcuterie plate was delicious and we were intrigued by the pickled foods. Neither of us could place what exactly was one of the pickled things we ate. Upon questioning, the super friendly host told us we were eating pickled Jerusalem artichokes. Now, Jerusalem artichokes and I have a long and sullied history. OK, neither is true, but back in that tiny garden I was telling you about, before we did potatoes, we did Jerusalem artichokes.
We got a few from the farmer’s market once, and couldn’t think of much to do with them. So I stuck one in the ground. Months later we had about 20 pounds of Jerusalem artichokes. No joke! We couldn’t find much to do with those either and a lot of them rotted. Shame on me. But now, I might have to stick one in the ground again, because pickle these mofos and they are delish!
So I promptly got home and probably just sat around and watched teevee. But a few days later I decided to try my hand at pickling sunchokes, as I had a few left over from a recipe that I never made. If you run, you can still catch the tail end of sunchoke season at the farmer’s market. As of yesterday, the farmer’s markets in Seattle still have them. If you want to grow them, spend a buck and buy a handful and stick a few in the ground about 3-4 inches deep. You can get a plot of them for the price of a few at the farmer’s market, like less than a buck, people. But don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re googling “what to do with 30 pounds of sunchokes” next fall. So you could just buy some when they are in season: October-March.
Sunchokes really have somewhat of an indescribable taste. I think it’s because sunchokes taste a little like artichokes, a little like potatoes and little like sunflower sprouts. Sunchokes are the root of the sunflower family. Sunflowers, man, is there anything they can’t do? I think it is their relationship to sunflowers that gives sunchokes that special something, that delicious nutty taste. The sprouts are good, as I’ve blogged, the seeds are great for spitting or putting in salads–try a salad and add sunflower seeds and a dressing with lime, good olive oil, cotija cheese. Delish! I also just read that you don’t even need to peel them. I’m a firm believer in not peeling anything unless it’s absolutely necessary–that’s where the vitamins and minerals (dated health buzzwords!) are, friends! Just scrub hard, and eat. I think I finally need to invest in a veggie only scrub brush.
OK, so here is the recipe.
Pickled Jerusalem Artichokes
Adapted from Food & Wine.
Jerusalem artichokes. 1/4 pound.
Champagne vinegar. 1 1/4 cup.
Cardomom pod. One!
Peppercorns. About 1/4 Tbsp. I used cool multicolor peppercorns I got in bulk from PFI.
Sugar. About 3/4 Tbsp.
Water. 1/4 cup.
Kosher Salt. 1/4 Tbsp.
Bay leaf. 1/2 of a (preferably fresh) leaf.
Coriander seeds . About 1/2 Tbsp.
Peel your sunchokes. This will prove to be the hardest task of the day, as these suckers are small and slippery. Watch out! It’s easy to peel your finger when you do this. After they are peeled, slice the sunchokes very thin. The original recipe calls for using a mandoline. I still don’t have one, or a good set of knives, so I used my handy dandy veggie peeler again, same as I did for my pickled ginger. The pickled ginger, by the way, turned out amazing. If you make sushi at home, you gotta try it. And it keeps getting better with age. And it is so much better than my previously loved store bought pink ginger.
Bring all of the ingredients other than the sunchokes themselves to a boil in a small saucepan. Upon boiling, pour the brine over the sunchokes and let cool to room temperature. Then you can put them in the fridge. After three days, these were awesome. This recipe makes plenty for a household of two. For a larger batch, consult the original recipe above, which calls for 2 lbs of sunchokes. I only had 1/4 pound of them, and it made a good amount.
The artichokes have a specific, unusual flavor that is really intensified by the brine. These tasted good two days later, but let them sit for a week or so. Enjoy!