If you belong to a fruit and vegetable co-op, the chances are that you have encountered this vegetable before
... and perhaps not known what it was, or even what to do with it!!
It is often mistaken for ginger - it does look a little bit like it - but once you peel it you can see that the texture is completely different. So what is it? It is the Jerusalem artichoke. A real misnomer, as it is not related to the artichoke at all, and it is not from Jerusalem!! Apparently they are related to the sunflower! Go figure! There is a theory that the name somehow came from a corruption of the Italian word "girasole" which means "turning to the sun". However they got their name, once you have tried them you will never mistake them for ginger again. They are lovely vegetable, very versatile - and have some great health benefits too. They are very high in iron, and are highly recommended for diabetics as they contain inulin, a starch that is not utilised by the body for energy, as opposed to sugar. The vegetable is quite filling, like a potato, but does not affect blood sugar levels. Jerusalem artichokes are at their best from autumn to winter.
I have been keeping my eye open for them for a while - some fruit shops will sell them in prepackaged containers - usually around 250g - but I was lucky enough to find them at our local farmers market this week. They are a little costly, I paid $9 per kilo for them, but they are worth the indulgence.
The reason I have been looking for them was when I was flipping through the May edition of Delicious there was a picture of a delicious (no pun intended) looking meal on one of the pages. I flipped backwards and forwards looking for the recipe, but could not find it. Very frustrating - I wanted to make this dish!! Underneath the photo was the byline that it was Dominique Rizzo's Middle Eastern Chicken with artichoke and cumin puree and zucchini salad. Well I did what any good foodie would do, and I tried to google it. This led me to Dominique's website - there was no recipe there - but there was a "contact us" section - so I did. I asked her where I could find the recipe - and low and behold - she sent it to me!! She wished me luck in making the dish and told me that it was a gorgeous dish! She was not wrong! So here is the recipe she sent me (I did tweak some of the amounts slightly!!)
Middle Eastern Style Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke Puree and Zucchini Salad
4 x 150g chicken breasts, skin off, pounded with a mallet until 1 1/2cm thickness
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tbs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stalks
1 tbs oregano, chopped
pinch of chili flakes
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs lemon juice
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1kg jerusalem artichokes, peeled
200ml (approx) chicken stock
dash of cream (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, roasted in a dry pan until fragrant
2 medium sized zucchini
1 cup flat leaf parsley, picked leaves, then chopped finely
10 mint leaves, thinly sliced
2 tbs currants
2 tbs pine nuts, toasted
3 tbs Italian Masala wine
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic, crushed
In a large glass bowl combine the garlic, thyme, oregano, chilli flakes, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and olive oil. Stir to combine, then add the chicken breasts. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge to marinate for up to 2 hours.
Place the jerusalem artichokes in a saucepan and cover with chicken stock. Boil them until tender. When cooked, drain off the chicken stock, and mash roughly with a fork. Add the butter, and mix. If you have a stick blender, use this to puree the mixture to a smooth consistency, otherwise place in a food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the cream, if desired. This can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave.
To make the salad, chop the top and the end off the zucchinis, and using a vegetable peeler peel the flesh from the zucchinis, leaving you with a bowl of "ribbons". I actually stopped peeling when I got the the middle section with all the seeds. To the zucchini ribbons add the parsley, currents and sliced mint. Combine the masala, olive oil, minced garlic, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve the salad. Don't dress the salad too early!
Heat a heavy based frypan over moderate to high heat. Pour in a small amount of olive oil. Cook the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes each side, or until they are lovely and golden. Set aside. Once the chicken has been cooked pour the marinade into the frypan, simmer for 3 minutes. Pour this over the cooked chicken.
Toss the pine nuts through the salad, and add the dressing.
Serve the chicken with a smear of the artichoke puree that has been sprinkled with the roasted cumin seeds and the zucchini salad.
This was truly a "gorgeous" meal to quote Dominique!! You must try this - you will be impressed - it would make a lovely dinner party meal. Dominique serves it with a cauliflower puree when jerusalem artichokes are not in season. I will definitely make this meal again - it was a real winner. I'm going to make the zucchini salad again - perhaps with some salmon next time!