Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cucumber-Lime Salsa with Vidalias and Feta Cheese

I love using sweet Vidalia onions in recipes that don’t require cooking. Now that it’s April the baby version of these Georgia-grown onions are available at local markets. They are wonderfully crisp, juicy, mild and of course, sweet.

This salsa is a great topping for grilled meat or meats that are cooked using a pungent spice rub. The freshness of the cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs compliments smoky flavors or warm spices nicely. The sweetness of the Vidalias and the creamy-saltiness of the feta are also a nice contrast of flavors too.

Cucumber-Lime Salsa with Vidalias and Feta Cheese
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
½ baby Vidalia onion, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large handful of parsley, finely chopped
Juice from a lime
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the feta cheese, stir well. Top with feta crumbles. If you’re making this in advance, wait until just before service to season with salt and top with feta.

Baby Vidalia Onions with Spring Zucchini

Baby Vidalia onions, renowned for their sweet flavor, hit local market stands in the spring around March – April, once the onion farmers begin thinning their crops. The sweet onion is named after Vidalia, GA where a local market started selling the sugary alliums in the 1940s.

About half the size of a full grown Vidalia, the baby Vs come in lovely bunches with their crisp greens attached to their juicy white bulbs. They look a bit like big round leeks and their mild, sweet flavor is a welcome addition to springtime meals. The onions are sweet and mild enough to use raw in salads, dressings and salsas. For more info about this wonderful Georgia-grown produce check out the official Vidalia Onion website.

In this dish I caramelize the baby Vs and add another spring favorite of mine, baby zucchini. If you can't find the adorable little squash, feel free to use full sized zuchini and cut it into batons about three inches long.

Punctuated with fresh herbs and lemon zest this dish is simple and allows the mild flavors of the Vidalias and the zucchini to shine. It's delicious and ready in mere minutes.

Zucchini with Baby Vidalia Onions
1 baby Vidalia onion, white only, thinly sliced
1 cup baby zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
zest from ½ a lemon
salt and black pepper

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the onions in an even layer and cook without stirring until they begin to brown then stir occasionally to prevent burning while the natural sugars in the onions to caramelize. Add the zucchini and cook covered for about 5 minutes (you may want to add a couple of tablespoons of water if the zucchini are large or thick to cause some steaming). Stir in parsley, lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Snack Attack: Sweets & Beets

Mention beets to some adults and they revert back to a dramatic six-year-old with puking sounds and gagging faces. Beets have gotten a bad rap, which is unfortunate because according to the site World's Healthiest Foods:
The pigment that gives beets their rich, purple-crimson color-betacyanin-is also a powerful cancer-fighting agent. Beets' potential effectiveness against colon cancer, in particular, has been demonstrated in several studies.
Read more about the health benefits of beets here.

Fortunately I've found a snack that seems to appeal to most adults and children that contains none other than this powerful, darkly packed root vegetable. Terra Chips, known for their veggie chips of all varieties makes Sweets & Beets: a crispy antioxidant rich snack, lightly salted that's great on it's own or with a creamy onion dip, herbed goat cheese or piquant sour cream.

These fried chips contain no trans fats and make a lovely presentation with their rich purple and orange crinkle cuts. These are some pretty chips, and easy to pass off as snacks because both sweet potatoes and beets carry (along with their cancer-fighting antioxidants) a natural sweetness that doesn't need artificial enhancement.

Sweet potatoes are no slouch on the nutritional front either, as World's Healthiest Foods reports:
This root vegetable qualified as an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), a very good source of vitamin C and manganese, and a good source of copper, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and iron... Since these nutrients are also anti-inflammatory, they can be helpful in reducing the severity of conditions where inflammation plays a role, such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
To learn more about the nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes click here.

I've noticed kids love them because of the rich colors and slight sweetness. And adults love them because they make a gorgeous, sophisticated alternative to the bland chips-and-dips presentation. Click here for some really sexy sounding recipe ideas using Terra Chips like Spicy Grilled Tuna with Heirloom Tomato Salsa and Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips, Shrimp Salsa, Rack of Lamb with Terra Crust and Spiced Sweet Potato Chips Stuffing with Sausage and Sage.

As a plus, Terra Chips claims you get one full serving of vegetables in 1 oz. of their vegetable chips. What a delicious and snackily decadent way to eat your veggies!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Snack Attack: Garden of Eatin' Corn Chips

My son was introduced to Doritos and was really driving me nuts with his insistence upon eating them... DAILY. I mean I'm fine with the occasional indulgence as a treat, but every time he asked for "chips" or "blue snack" (Cool Ranch flavored) all I could think about was the genetically modified corn, MSG, high sodium, artificial colors and preservatives that were taking the place of something that could be more... well if not nutritious, at least WHOLE. You know, like a real food.

So maybe that's too much to ask in a snack, I thought, but turns out it's isn't. On a trip to my co-op, Sevananda Natural Foods, I took a turn down the oft-skipped snack aisle and I was reminded about the wide variety of snack foods that may not be so guilt-provoking.

In keeping with the nacho-cheesy theme I grabbed a bag of Garden of Eatin's Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips, Nacho Cheese Flavor. They have tons of chips with flavors like Chili & Lime and Guacamole, even Tamari! According to the site, "The Garden of Eatin' family of products contains no trans fat or hydrogenated oils, are all natural and Kosher certified. So no matter who enjoys these distinctive snacks, you’ll serve them with pride knowing they’re from a trusted brand."

Their products also contain no genetically modified ingredients. And here's something really cool I read off of the bag:
"Even our oils are different. They aren't extracted chemically. We crush seeds mechanically in a press. It makes a difference you can taste. And the water. It's not just tap water from a big spigot in the manufacturing plant. It's filtered water. Clean. Clear. Fresh. Those little taste buds on your tongue will tell you right away."

Wow, right? Somebody put a lot of thought into these chips. They're seasoned with sea salt, organic cheese, tomatoes, onions and garlic and cayenne pepper too.

Their corn chips come in a gorgeous rainbow of colors made from blue, red and yellow corn. In fact they have over 20 varieties of all natural tortilla chips, organic popcorn and taco shells and taco dinner kits. And I believe Garden of Eatin' started out with organic wheat pita chips too, which are great for all kinds of spreads and dipping.

Whether you're putting together a spread for a party of adults and you were looking for some sophisticated chips, or if you're just a parent looking for guilt-free snacks for the family, or even if you just miss eating tacos because you're haven't figured out how to make them healthy (I'll post a recipe on that separately) it looks like the folks at Garden of Eatin' have you covered. They even have recipes like this Hearty Nacho Mexi-Bake and these Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas.

These crunchy chips have a delicious heartiness about them that reminds me of the Corn Nuts I used to eat as a kid. All that health-stuff is well and good, but do they pass the kid test? Absolutely! Right down to the messy reddish annatto stained finger tips.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Building Beds

A few pieces of lumber and some nails and we had beds built! A great family project as you can see...

This is a big deal here on the homefront because we missed this window last year, and planted way to late to get the most out of any harvets.

After the beds were built and positioned, we turned the earth inside of each bed, removed roots and tubers, then filled them with leaves & cow manuer that have been composting together since last fall and over the winter.

Then we watered the dirt/compost mixture heavily and covered them with plastic to expedite further decomposition.

All of this too make the earth rich and ready for receiving what we hope to plant any day now...

Tomatoes from Seed

Finally after what was a long four weeks riddled with unseasonably cold spontaneously frosty nights, devastating tornados and unreliable sun, the multiple varieties of tomatoes we planted from seed are starting to sprout. Whew! Might be a decent spring after all!

Baby Broccoli

I'm so excited to see these baby veggie plants poking their heads through the starter soil. Even on a bad day, I know I did something right when I see them reaching for the sun. I can't wait to plant them!

Pork Potstickers & Steamed Dumplings

We eat potstickers, dim sum and dumplings as often as we can. But recently, M was under the weather and I'm a big believer in "soul food" to heal an illness: "soulfood" being that food which your soul is craving. In his case it was Chinese dumplings, so I set out to recreate a recipe which I'd only done in a restaurant at home. And I did so with great success I might add. Granted the wrappers and textures weren't all that sophisticated, but that lent authenticity and homemade "love" to the meal. Needless to say, M is feeling much better now.

Feel free to make this a family affair. We shopped together, I prepared the filling, we distracted our son with his own wonton skins to play with, and M oversaw the steaming and pan-frying. It was a very successful meal on a rainy Friday night.

Substitution: Use ground chicken or turkey for a leaner alternative!

Filling Ingredients:
1 pound ground pork
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2” piece of garlic, peeled and grated,
1 ½ cup pak choi, green only, thinly sliced (or use bok choy or nappa cabbage)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
2 scallions, green and white, sliced

In a large mixing bowl, mash the pork with a fork (or your hands) until it becomes rather creamy or silky in texture. Alternately, run it in a food processor for a few minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl. If you skip this step, it’s no big deal. Your dumplings will have a heavier, meatier consistency, like a meat ball, but they’ll still taste good. Combing all of the other ingredients well and proceed to the assembly part.


Dipping Sauce: (measurements are approximate)
1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2 Tbsp sweet rice wine (mirin)
1 Tbsp seasoned rice wine
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 sliced scallion

Note about dip:
If the flavor is too “strong” for you liking, dilute with water, pineapple juice or orange juice. You can spice up the sauce with a little crushed red pepper or a dash of Sriacha or other pepper sauce. If you don’t have mirin, Add some sugar to your soy sauce, and dilute with water and juice. The goal is to make an easy dipping sauce that is lightly salty and sweet.


Note about wrappers:
Wonton or dumpling skins, or eggroll wrap cut into square quarters. Potstickers are easier to form using circle shaped dumpling wrappers. You can make purses or triangles out of the square shapes. Dumpling skins are better for steaming and are slightly thicker for a toothier bite. Eggroll and wonton skins are good crispy results from lightly pan frying in just a tiny bit of oil, or doing a combo pan-fry/steam cook (my favorite), or just for deep frying where they puff up and get crispy like the crab ragoons you get at fast food


Assemblage and Cooking Methods

To assemble:
Place a tsp of filling in the center of a wrapper. Dip your finger in water (or a slurry made of cornstarch and water) and run the damp finger along the edge of the wrapper. Fold over and seal the wrapper by pressing the damp edges together. You may crimp the edges my pinching to ensure a seal and make for “pretty” dumplings. This prevents leakage. These wrappers dry out quickly so work with just a few at a time and keep the rest under a damp kitchen towel. You can refrigerate them or even freeze them at this point for future use.

To pan fry:
Heat a clean pan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Cook the dumplings, without crowding the pan, until golden brown on one side (or test to see if they’re ready to flip by trying to move them. When they “un-stick” they’re ready to flip). Turn on the other side, reduce the heat to medium and allow to cook through.

To pan fry/steam:
Follow pan fry directions. Once you flip the dumplings over, add 1 Tbsp of water and QUICKLY put a lid on the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to cook through.

To steam (basket style):
Add water to the bottom of a fry kettle or steamer and bring up to a boil. Place some pak choi leaves or some other vegetable in the bottom of the steam basket and arrange the dumplings on top so that they are not touching. This prevents the dumplings from sticking ot the steamer basket. Situate the steam basket in the steamer and cover. Steam for about 10 minutes. Be mindful of the hot steam when removing the lid!

Chinese-style Vegetable Soup

Chinese-style Vegetable Soup (with steamed dumplings):
With many clear or brothy Chinese-style soups, the ingredients actually cook in the hot-broth. In a soup such as this, the quality of your ingredients will directly impact the flavor and look of your soup. I used some low-sodium Swanson’s chicken broth as the base of the soup but feel free to use any good-quality stock, either home made or store bought, that you like. I also used the whites from the pak choi greens that I used in the Pork Dumpling Filling.

4 cups chicken stock
2” piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, small dice
1 bunch pak choi, whites only, thickly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups, or any other Asian cabbage)
1 ½ cups shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and sliced into ¼-1/2” inch pieces
3 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 scallion (reserved for garnish)

1. Pour chicken stock into a large pot, add ginger, garlic, and carrots and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add shiitakes and soy sauce. Allow the soup to simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the pak choi, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Cook until pak choi becomes tender, maybe 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings, including rice wine vinegar and sesame oil to taste. (Be careful, both pack a wallop of flavor!)

2. Arrange 3 steamed dumplings in a soup bowl. Remove the soup from heat, stir in scallions and pour over steamed dumplings.

3. For a nice touch of heat and flavor, add a touch of Siracha hot sauce to your bowl. Enjoy.

Orange Ginger Grilled Chicken

Easy and delicious... 'nuff said!
Orange Ginger Grilled Chicken

6-8 chicken pieces (thighs, split breasts, drumsticks)
Juice from 2 oranges
Zest from 1 orange
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 generous handful fresh cilantro leaves
3 Tbsp tamari soy sauce (it's wheat free!) or low sodium soy sauce

1. Combine in a glass or plastic container and let marinate 2-24 hours.
2. Grill over med-hot coals for 10-15 minutes on one side (watch for flare ups!) and flip and cook until done.
3. Chicken is done when the juices run clear from the joints, or close to the bone. When in doubt, cut deep and take a peek. Enjoy!

Greek Yogurt Salad Dressing

Greek Yogurt Dressing
This uses delectable, thick and rich Greek style yogurt, but feel free to substitute lowfat or non-fat yogurt if that is your preference.

½ cup Greek yogurt
1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp red onion, finely diced
Juice from 1 lime
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp cumin
black pepper and salt
2 Roma tomatoes, small dice
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated

Stir ingredients together, combine well, and let sit refrigerated for 1 hour. Will keep tightly covered for at least 7 days.

Leftovers Can Be Sexy... and Healthy

Leftover Night Salad
With all the fantastic dinners we’ve had this week, tonight is leftover night. We get to choose from the lovely array of previously sampled meals from earlier in the week, and if nothing sounds good, well… there’s always this salad. It’s made from some of the “overages” from the week. As you can see, the substitutions are endless and the salad is pretty well balanced with veggies, seeds/nuts, fruit, and even some cheese. So have fun making Leftover Night Salad.

Red oak leaves and Spinach leaves (any mix of salad greens)
Sliced tomato (or citrus fruit)
Sliced red onion (or scallion, leek, shallot)
Sliced cucumber, peeled and seeded (or carrots, radishes, raw zucchini or squash)
Freshly chopped parsley (or mint, chives, tarragon, basil, or chervil)
Chopped walnuts (slivered almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
Grated ricotta salada cheese (parmesan, feta, pecorino, cheddar, mozzarella)
Warm sliced chicken (roasted pork, barbeque beef, whatever’s leftover)

Variation: I’m going to put my leftover salad on top of a warm pita, spread with hummus. I’ll top the salad with some leftover grilled chicken and a healthy dollop of the Greek Yogurt dressing. Yum! (see photo)

Snack Attack: Mott's Healthy Harvest Apple Sauce

Most of us ate apple sauce as babies, and then some of us outgrew it leaving it behind as "baby food." After an apple sauce drought, I thought my son made the transition, then suddenly he started requesting "pink" applesauce. I had no idea there was such a thing, and I was pretty sure if it existed, it couldn't possibly be good for you. That's how I discovered Mott's Healthy Harvest line of apple sauces.

My mother, who is diabetic, picked up an eight-pack after reading the "No Added Sugar" on the label and had given the Summer Strawberry naturally flavored snack to my son. Hence, the requests for "pink" applesauce.

Applesauce by itself is kinda blah to me, but with Mott's Healthy Harvest varieties they've managed to add sweetness and more fruity punch -- apple sauce with a pop.

What I like about the Healthy Harvest line is that it's simple and straight forward. The ingredient list on the Blueberry, delight in this example, is short: Apples, Water, Apple Puree Concentrate, Vegetable Juice for Color, Blueberry Puree, Natural Flavors, and Vitamin C. I actually think in some part of my mind that the addition of "vegetable juice for color" is a plus. Do you? I'm thinking beet juice.

Mott's didn't target their Healthy Harvest line for kids, per se with flavors like Blueberry Delight, Summer Strawberry and Peach Medley, Mott's Healthy Harvest offers a grab-n-go treat with no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners and less sugar than regular apple sauce along with vitamin C. I assume along with the berry blends come the antioxidant properties associated with the berries. Another grown-up variety of apple sauce is the Mott's Plus Sauce, which has added calcium and fiber, and comes in sophisticated flavors (for apple sauce anyway) like pomegranate and cranberry-raspberry. Did I mention each cup carries only about 50 calories?

Mott's site lists TONS of information on the health benefits of apples to support that old adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." You will find clinical studies, expert advice, recipes and much more on all things apples.
As a grab-and-go option, Mott's Healthy Harvest has become a staple in my house. Summer Strawberry has made appearances in the Eating Breakfast in the Car Show along side cinnamon flavored multi-grain toaster waffles.

In their Scooby Doo Apple Sauce there's added nutrition for kids as well as 25% less sugar than regular apple sauce. However, I haven't investigated whether or not the kid's brand contains any artificial colors, sweeteners or other stuff (though I'm pretty confident in Mott's commitment to healthful snacks as a brand). If you have some in your cupboard, let me know! Mott's has an entire line of reduced sugar, apple-based sauces, juices and more just for kids, too.

Apple options for every age group -- good marketing, Mott's!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Creamy Sunchoke & Celery Soup

"Cream of" soups get a bad rap, especially when using a puree of root or starchy vegetables that will naturally provide a thick, creamy texture (also called "body") to many soups and starches. In such a case you can simply finish the soup with a dollop of cream, soy milk, or even low-fat sour cream and get that unctuous creamy satisfaction from what is a really healthful bowl of pureed veggies.

The flavor of this fast and elegant soup, based on sunchokes which are widely available through the winter until about April, is made a bit more complex with the addition of white wine, mustard, and freshly grated nutmeg which will give the soup a delicious "What IS that spice?" appeal. Enjoy.

To learn more about sunchokes, click here.


1 pound sunchokes sliced, and into a bowl of cold, acidulated water
3 cups celery stalks, diced(reserve celery leaves for garnish)
1 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth\
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 Tablespoon dry mustard
1 cup half-and-half or soy milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cloves of peeled garlic, minced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced

In a stainless steel or enamel pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat, and sauté, onions, shallots and garlic until onions begin to become translucent. Add sunchokes and celery and cook just until sunchokes become tender.

Deglaze by pouring in the wine and scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add stock, mustard and water and bring up to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Continue cooking for 15-20 minutes.

In a blender purée the mixture in batches, transferring it as it is puréed to a clean pot. Stir in the half-and-half, the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the soup over medium-low heat, stirring regularly.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving, with celery leaves.

Sunchoke & Yukon Gold Potato Gratin

Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, possess an undigestable carbohydrate called inulin, which is good news to carb-concious folks like diabetics. While inulin won't be converted to stored energy (a la ye old "muffin top" around the midsection), it does benefit the "good" bacteria in our digestive tract who have no problem breaking it down.

In this recipe, sunchokes are paired with potatoes, a good idea for anyone who loves the starchy texture of cooked potatoes, but would benefit from decreasing the impact of all those simple sugars. To learn more about sunchokes, click here.


1 cup vegetable stock
1-1/2 cream or unsweetened plain soy milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
3 pounds (about 6 large) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
3/4 pound (about 8) sunchokes, peeled
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a baking dish with olive oil or butter.

In a saucepan, combine the stock, 1 cup of cream (or soy milk), sea salt and pepper to taste, nutmeg and thyme. Bring to a boil, and immediately remove from heat.

Slice the potatoes and sunchokes into 1/8-inch slices, into a large bowl of cold, acidulated water (use a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of vinegar).

Arrange one thin layer of potato slices into the dish, season with salt and pepper, and top that layer with half of the sunchoke slices. Pour one cup of the stock mixture over the potatoes and sunchokes. Repeat layers until you use all of the product. Pour the remaining cream on top and sprinkle with thyme.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 degrees, top with grated cheese, and cook for 35 minutes or until fork tender. Allow the gratin to for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunchokes: while they last...

“What is that, Mommy?” my son asked suspiciously while pointing to a pile of knobby tubers that looks like little knots of ginger. “That’s a sunchoke, sweetie!” I said, and happily bagged up a pound.

Sunchokes are one of those vegetables that I reach for during this wacky window of time when the weather vacillates between Winter and Spring every few days. Prime time for sunchokes, which are best harvested after a frost and before their flowers bloom, is between the months of October and April, so let’s dig in and enjoy them while we can.

Sunchokes are also called Jerusalem Artichokes although they’re indigenous to right here in the U.S. of A. They’re also not artichokes, but the root systems of a member of the sunflower family with a cheery yellow bloom.
A centuries-old favorite among some Native tribes, food lore reports that sunchokes were discovered by Europeans after French explorer Samuel de Champlain sent some of these tubers to an Italian buddy who thought they tasted like artichokes and named "girasole articicco," meaning, "sunflower artichoke." The American corruption of the pronunciation lead to "Jerusalem" and the rest is history.

Eaten raw, sunchokes have a crisp, delicate flavor that is slightly sweet and nutty, similar to jicama and water chestnuts. However once cooked, the tubers take on a starchy texture, much like potatoes, and can be used in combination with or in lieu of potatoes in dishes like purees and gratins.

Speaking of starch, the botanically named Helianthus tuberosus stores its energy as inulin (a starch that is not used by the body unlike sugar and not to be confused with insulin) which is particularly good news for diabetics in because inulin breaks down into fructose instead of glucose during digestion, making sunchokes a good substitute for other starchy foods such as potatoes. Sunchoke flour is an alternative for those who are allergic to wheat and other grains.

Nutritionally, sunchokes are high in iron, thiamin and potassium and sunchokes also feed the healthy bacteria (lactobacilli) in the intestinal tract. Sunchokes cause flatulence in some people, which can be reduced by blanching or par-boiling the tubers before cooking.

To peel or not to peel? That is the question. If you choose fresh, firm, juicy sunchokes that aren’t overgrown then peeling them is really up to your discretion. Although the gnarly knobs look like ginger, the skin is much thinner and can be eaten. Larger sunchokes can be peeled with a paring knife or even a spoon. If you peel them, drop them in acidulated water (water with a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of vinegar) to prevent discoloration. It is also a good idea to dip peeled or cut sunchokes in acidulated water if you’ll be serving them raw, just like you would do with apples to prevent browning when exposed to air.

Peeled or not, since these are essentially roots, sunchokes should be scrubbed thoroughly before preparation. Avoid sunchokes with wrinkled skins, soft spots, blotched green areas or sprouts, but don’t be afraid of a light tinge of yellow, red or purple in the light brown skin depending on the soil in which they were grown.

Sunchokes are highly versatile and can be cooked like potatoes: baked, boiled, steamed, fried, and stewed. A bit of warning, though because they cook faster than potatoes and can easily be turned to mush in a matter of minutes. They are “done” when you can easily pierce them with a skewer or fork. To prevent discoloration in soups or gratins, try not to cook sunchokes in aluminum pans or pots made of reactive substances like iron.

Check out this Sunchoke & Yukon Gold Potato Gratin or Creamy Sunchoke & Celery Soup for recipe ideas!

Chef Asata Reid leads the Natural Foods Series offered monthly at Sevananda Natural Foods Market, where she has been a member since 2006. Through her Atlanta-based company, Life Chef, she leads cooking classes and healthy food seminars, and discusses all things food-related at As a mother and world-neighbor, she is also an advocate for healthy children and families through the Children's Wellness Network.