Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January Sunshine

When I got back to Maine from my Christmas vacation, I had the hankering to make a meal using locally produced ingredients. I recently finished reading Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon who pioneered the idea of only eating foods produced within 100 miles of their Vancouver, BC home for a year.

And while I don't think I am committing to the 100 mile diet right now (in January in Maine), I am going to try to incorporate as many locally grown and produced ingredients in my diet as I can manage (and afford). So I went over to the Portland Public Market to see what was local and in season. And I found local, organic sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes. In Plenty, they ate sunchokes in the winter as one of their first before-spring local finds.

So I went back home proudly bearing a bag of sunchokes and an unidentified variety of local squash (and out $8). The Joy of Cooking told me that sunchokes aren't related to artichokes, but are the tubers of sunflowers. And a quick internet search revealed that the most popular way to prepare sunchokes is to make a cream soup of them. Done.

So I kinda made it up, but here it is as best as I can approximate...

Sunchoke Soup
4 T butter
2 t garlic
1/2 small onion (or shallots), sliced
3 c chicken stock
1 c cream (I used half and half)

Peel and slice sunchokes. As you peel and slice, place the denuded sunchokes in a bowl of cold water with a splash of vinegar. This will keep the chokes from discoloring.

Melt the butter in a stock pot, and sweat the garlic and onions, for about 5 minutes. Add sunchokes and stock. Simmer until 'chokes are tender. Blend until smooth, add cream and return to low heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

As you can see, I served this soup in a small tea cup. I recommend small portions, because the soup is quite rich and best savored in little sips. I garnished it with sour cream and a sage leaf, but it stands alone just fine.

To round out the rest of my local, winter meal, I took inspiration from my friend Liz again and decided to make squash ravioli. Originally I intended to use the squash I bought, but then I spied my *old* Halloween pumpkin. I'd always intended to use it as food after its decorating purposes were served, but now I think I should have gone with the fresher squash.

But anyway, I roasted that baby with butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt and pepper. When it was soft(ish), I combined it with some Parmesan cheese and sauteed hot Italian sausage from Whole Foods. The pasta was made from 3 eggs and 2 cups of Semolina flour and rolled out by hand (woof, I vowed to get a pasta roller after this latest experience). The ravs were served in a browned butter and sage sauce.

Et voila!

Oh yeah, some ravs are brown because M. added a walnut paste to the dough. He loves adding things to pasta dough, and I convinced him to only add it to half. The nuttiness in the pasta (and the kitchen, ha!) complimented the filling nicely.

So after this successful meal, I am going to further my local wintertime eating mini-experiment by ordering some meat and produce from the every-other-week Portland Farmer's market. I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out.


  1. KT! Those look great and the soup sounds cool too!! Good job with the most difficult pasta to make!! I just put walnuts into a ravioli for cookbook club last night (no pictures, waaah) and it is totally what ravioli always needs.

  2. I went with Jennifer to a restaurant in Hamden that had 3 soups and 3 salads on the menu. We got two different soups and loved them both. I think soup is my favorite food and this one looks very good.

  3. My soup was a potato lentil soup with a pistachio tapenade sprinkled on top. Really good.