Mouse Nibbles and High Winds

Despite the wind, putting on a jacket, grabbing a fork and going outside was actually easier than driving to the store, not to mention a better choice than burning up fossil fuel for some Jerusalem artichokes and a leek.

Our miserable windy spring weather has begun. On Leap Day, winds from our area turned into tornadoes in the mid-west. Here they were merely fierce, cold and loud, bringing sand and dust on their breath and doing a number on the cottonwood trees, pruning the live limbs over the dead ones. It’s not much fun to go out in this weather, but in the interest of being frugal as well as being curious, I did. I couldn’t resist prowling Ray Ban outlet around my beds to see what was there. I came back inside chilled, but with arms full— more hairy salsify roots, a few leeks, plenty of red skinned Walspinel Jerusalem artichokes and a few giant carrots, mostly white and pale yellow. I’m so amazed at how generous the garden has been given the neglect it’s endured since the fall. Plus it kindly stores my harvest for me, which is convenient since it won’t all fit (or last) in the refrigerator. And so I am grateful, too, and inspired to do better.

What’s interesting about cooking from a garden is that you just look at what you have and go from there.  Not that I don’t do that pretty much everyday regardless of where my food comes from, but the garden messes with your head in a different way than your well-mannered vegetables from the co-op do. It gives you a few salsify roots, maybe one burdock, a yellow carrot with mouse nibbles on it and a whole lot of white carrots. The leeks are too tough for the spring braised I’m hankering, but I’ve got to use them somehow. The bearded salsify I now regard as a bit of chore to deal—I see why it went out of favor— but there it is. (And a fresh package of seed is on the way!) I have one thin burdock root.  I wash the dirt off my collection, take the water outside for a peony, then stare at my harvest. Eventually a dish takes form.

In this case, it was a soup, which is always most forgiving when you’re faced with a bit of this and more of that. I thought it would go in one direction, but instead it went in two. I used the burdock, those red-skinned Jerusalem artichokes, the leeks, a few salsify roots, and some mushroom stock I had http://www.raybanoutletit.com/ made from a pound of forgotten funghi, plus a cup of home-made chicken stock. When I got all the vegetables trimmed, sliced and into the pot, I was taken aback by their forms and hues. They were gorgeous, their earth tones subdued and subtle.

JA, salsify, burdock soup

When I finished cooking the soup I was reluctant to puree it as intended, so I served the vegetables in their thin broth. That thinness was deceptive though, for the flavor from the roots was earthy and big and not too sweet. I added a pinch of truffle salt. I love that with weird roots. It was a light soup, good for the first course at dinner, with big surprising depth.

JA Soup unpureed

I pureed what was left, as I had intended in the first place. It was simple, beige and flecked with the skins of the sunchokes, but the flavors wandered around among the earthy, sweet but not too sweet natures of the roots. Truffle salt went on this one too.  No cream. Not only didn’t I have any, I didn’t want to dilute the flavor. No green, either, though sunflower sprouts would be good and right in the same family as the Ray Ban outlet Prezzi Jerusalem artichokes.  It looked dull, but then it surprised.  I did keep some vegetables intact plus added a few breadcrumbs for texture.

JA Soup with Breadcrumbs

I want to give you a really worked out recipe, but what I have is more of an approach. I know I can’t ask someone to go out and look for a salsify root, after all, or assume they have one growing in their back yard. Your soup will be fine without it. But do try the burdock – it’s a good partner with those sun chokes. And don’t be afraid of a soup that doesn’t look like much. The drama is really in the flavors – except that the cook gets another bit of drama when she looks in the pot early on and sees all those beautiful, odd vegetables.

Jerusalem Artichoke, Burdock and Salsify Soup with Truffle Oil                    Serves 6

(These are more-or-less amounts, as they can be in a soup.)

1 1/2  tablespoons sunflower seed oil

1 or 2 leeks, thinly sliced, or an onion, diced into ½-inch pieces, about one cup

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 small yellow-fleshed potato, peeled, quartered and sliced

1 white or yellow carrot, scrubbed and thinly sliced

1 burdock root, about 4 ounces peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick and covered immediately with water and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice

1 salsify root, (should you have it) peeled, sliced in rounds and put in water with the burdock root

sea salt

41/2 cups, in all, chicken stock, mushroom stock, or water

1 tablespoon flour

Tuffle salt (optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the leek or onion, Jerusalem artichoke, potato and carrot. Drain the burdock and salsify and add them to the pot. Turn immediately to coat with the oil. Sprinkle over 1 teapoon sea salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the 1 cup of the stock, cover the pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, sprinkle over the flour then stir it in to the vegetables. Pour in the rest of the stock, bring to a boil then simmer, partially covered. Check after 15 minutes, take a taste, and make sure the burdock is sufficiently tender. If not simmer 10 minute more, or until it is to your liking.

Either serve the broth with the vegetables and a pinch of truffle salt. Or puree the soup.

If choosing the latter route, you might have to add extra liquid, which could be any of those you’ve used so far, or milk or a little light cream.  Taste for salt, consider a little pepper, and serve with or without the truffle salt.

7 comments to Mouse Nibbles and High Winds

  • Carol

    Deborah, you mentioning mushroom stock made me remember – would making mushroom stock out of mushrooms starting to go slimy be a good idea, or too iffy?
    Your cookbook has inspired my husband and I and our five children to branch way out. It is my favorite go-to cookbook and always great for trying something new. Thank you!

    • Carol – I don’t think that slimy vegetables really are going to make a good stock. Mushrooms that have opened, are brownish in places but dry to the touch are fine. That’s what
      I used. But if they’re slimy they’re on their way out. A good question to ask yourself is “would I want to eat these?” If you don’t, feed your compost instead!

  • lovely earthy shades. i was nodding along and smiling while reading the post, with garden poised on the opposite seasonal edge to yours – tipping toward autumn.

    am planting burdock this weekend – it’s something i’ve never seen for sale in autralia, but i am so curious and grown in my own garden seems to be the only way i’ll get to taste it. thank you, deborah. (thrilled to have found you’re blogging, too!)

  • Ideal answer on the slimy mushrooms, Deborah! Pithy wisdom as usual…Carol – how were the mushrooms stored? Plastic is the enemy; it traps too much moisture. If mushrooms are stored refrigerated in a waxed paper lined basket, loosely covered with more waxed paper, they will stay fresh for quite a while and when they DO start to get old, they’ll do it by drying out in the way Deborah describes instead of getting slimy-rotten and fit only for compost. Even if forgotten/unused for so long they’ve become “dried mushrooms” they’ll still be fine for making stock.

  • I have so many seeds I want to plant. Still debating the burdock. Is it really worth it?

    • Hard to say. I like the idea of planting odd things at least once, but if you live in a city (or suburb) you can maybe find it a good supermarket. And maybe at your farmers market. If you’re short of space and have a lot of other seeds you’re wanting to plant, then don’t. But if your curious, then do. Is it worth it? That’s hard for me to say!

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