Sunchoke Soup with Watercress Puree and Pickled Radishes

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Watercress Puree and Pickled Radishes

Sunchoke Soup

Pouring delicious sunchoke soup at the dinner table

This Sunchoke Soup (or, if you like, Jerusalem Artichoke Soup) is an elegant opening course for a festive Winter Dinner with your friends. The overall dish with its three components requires a little planning and diligent execution in order to achieve the desired outcome. In other words: this is not a last-minute endeavor and does not qualify for semi-homemade. Preparing and cooking the soup is pretty straight-forward.  The Pickled Radishes are prepared using a technique called Sous Vide. This is a fancy term for simmering food in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag at a pretty precise temperature. I think you will enjoy this little sous vide experiment as an excellent entry to this popular cooking technique. And finally: The Watercress Puree is also  a pretty simple fare. All together this is quite a few components to juggle. To achieve success it is best to divide and conquer. Start with the pickled radishes, then prepare the soup, and finally create the puree. You can keep the components warm for a little while—say, up to an hour. At dinner time it is good fun to assemble the course and I can assure you that the results are very elegant and rewarding.

The acclaimed chef Thomas Keller created a version of this recipe in his beautiful book, Under pressure: Cooking Sous Vide. His cooking is very sophisticated and a great inspiration that pushes my own aspirations. The Sunchoke Soup is the simplest recipe in the book. A good place at which to start on your ‘sous vide adventure.’

When it comes to serving the soup, I pour the heated soup from a carafe into the soup plate at the dinner table. All three components together really form a trifetta of flavors that work beautifully together. The richness of the sunchoke soup, the slight sharpness of the watercress puree and the wonderfully light sweet-sourness of the pickled radish make this soup a special event, one that your guests will not forget.

Let’s get started with the Pickled Radishes:

Pickled Radishes Vacuum sealed radishes

Pickled Radishes
 
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Your easy starter dish cooking sous vide
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • one bunch of beautiful, fresh radishes
  • ½ cup of regular vinegar
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of water
Instructions
  1. Start combining sugar, vinegar, and water in a pan. Bring to a simmer and dissolve the sugar. This mixture will form your pickling liquid.
  2. We will quick-pickle our radishes under vacuum in a hot water bath. This cooking method is called sous vide. It allows for a very careful cooking of the food in a controlled environment. I like the results very much.
  3. You cut the radishes to your liking. I cut the big ones in quarters, some in slices. If you would like to be fancy you use a mellon baller for perfect little drops of radish.
  4. In they go to a plastic bag, then add some pickling liquid. Avoid the urge to use too much liquid; just a modest amount is needed.
  5. Suck the air out of your plastic bag with a vacuum sealer and seal the bag. Cook the radishes in a 185-degree hot water bath for, let's say 40 minutes. I used my sous vide hot water bath, which holds its temperature very precisely. But I would venture to guess that these radishes are pretty hardy and so, if you keep an eye on the thermometer, you pretty much can do it also in a good old pot.
  6. Once they're done, pour the bag into a bowl and let cool.

Sunchoke Soup

I discovered Sunchokes only recently. Their flavor is quite subtle, but very unique. It is easy to find them at the supermarket, living the final moments of their life in an under-appreciated corner of the veggie isle. Try to find the ones that are looking fresh and plump, pieces of good size and not the shriveled up ones seeming to be on their last breath. Peeling these morsels is a little pain in the you-know-what, but with a vegetable peeler this will be done in no time.

 

Sunchoke Soup
 
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This soup recipes allows to create a wonderfully velvety soup that highlights the unique flavor of the sunchoke.
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • Half a stick of butter
  • One medium yellow or Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • One pound of sunchokes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 quart of chicken stock
  • Half a cup of heavy cream (yes, we must!)
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-bottom pot melt the butter and sauté the sliced onion without allowing any sign of browning. The sliced onions should be shiny and soft. I challenge you to avoid browning them! Medium heat is best.
  2. Add the sunchokes, chicken stock, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 to 20 min. The sunchokes should be completely soft. The chicken stock will reduce a little bit.
  3. Add the cream and bring to a simmer.
  4. Puree the whole thing in your trusty VitaMix.
  5. Back into the cleaned pot. Season with salt.
  6. You can keep the soup refrigerated for a while, reheating at dinner time.

 

The Watercress Puree

In his original recipe, Keller pairs the soup with an Arugula Puree. I modified the puree by using watercress. Watercress has a nice bitter aroma that provides contrast to the richness of the sunchoke soup. You need:

Watercress Puree
 
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You need a total of approximately 300 grams of green leaves, which is a little less then a pound.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • 2 sprigs of thyme leaves, stems removed
  • 2 bunches of watercress, cleaned, no stems
  • 1 bunch of spinach, cleaned, no stems
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 ice cubes
  • Half a cup of chicken stock
  • Half a cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour, kneaded together to 2 tablespoons of Beurre Manié
  • 1 egg yolk
Instructions
  1. Blanch the greens in a big pot of salted and boiling water for about 30 to 40 seconds. Dump the leaves in an ice bath and then drain on a towel, removing as much water as you can. Wringing out that water keeps your puree from being too saucy.
  2. Put the hot watercress and spinach into the VitaMix with 3 ice cubes and puree. This will stop the cooking and preserve the beautiful green color of the mixture. Set aside.
  3. In a sauce pan gently sauté the shallots with a tablespoon of grape seed oil until soft. Again, no browning. It should take about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the thyme leaves and cook for another few minutes. Still no browning, please!
  5. Add the chicken stock; cook for another 3 minutes. The shallots are now very soft.
  6. Add the cream and season with salt. What you've created should look somewhat like a white sauce. Strain and put aside.
  7. To assemble, mix the white sauce with a tablespoon of Beurre Manié and bring to a simmer, cook for 10 mins to remove any flour taste. This should now look like a think white sauce.
  8. Take off the heat and whisk in the egg yolk. Now you have a slightly more yellow think sauce.
  9. --Take a breather, we're almost there.--
  10. Mix two parts green puree with one part yellowish white sauce and reheat carefully over a small flame. Season again with salt and maybe a touch of pepper. This completes our puree. You can compare the consistency of the puree with the one in the photo. In my early attempts I created more of a green soup. If this happens, don't despair: it will still taste really good.

The assembly of this dish is fun: I line up all my plates in a row. Place the radishes, and then a spoonful of puree into each plate. Then, once the plates are set at the dinner table, I pour the beautiful, velvelty soup carefully into each.

 

Easy Apricot Cake

Easy Apricot Cake Apricot Cake with Almonds This Apricot Cake is a fail-safe dessert. Our dinner guests just love it: the crunchy almonds on top mixing with the slightly caramelized cinnamon sugar, the light and crumbly texture of the cake batter and the delicious moist apricot slices just work so well together. You can assemble the apricot cake in just a few minutes and after 45 min in the oven you are done with your dessert. I also love its versatility: you can choose your favorite fruit and create your own variations of this cake. Apricots work great, but peaches, strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, or red currants all do well and each will lend the cake a different and rich flavor profile.

Easy Apricot Cake
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1¾ cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup sugar, plus sugar for the cinnamon mixture
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 oz can of apricot halves, drained and sliced into nice pieces
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and butter a round 10 inch baking pan
  2. Mix the dry ingredients: flour, salt, and baking powder
  3. In your mixer combine butter and sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add the 3 eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla. Scrape. Mix some some more until batter is smooth
  4. With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients. Don't over mix.
  5. Gently fold in the apricot slices
  6. Fill into the baking form. Sprinkle the almonds, cinnamon and sugar mixture on top and bake about 45 mins

 

The base recipe was published by Martha Stewart in her ‘Fresh Flavor Fast’ book. I know you will make this cake a staple in your repertoire. Try it.

Guten Appetit!

Apricot Cake with Almonds Apricot Cake with Almonds

 

Strawberries and Yoghurt Foam

Dessert with Strawberries and Yohurt Fresh Strawberries Ingredients for Strawberries and Yoghurt Foam

Here in New York we are experiencing what we hope are the last days of winter. After this long, cold season with all its rich and comforting foods, I am starting to long for dishes on the lighter side: a fresh salad, maybe some crunchy early-season vegetables. But my strongest urge at the moment is for fresh berries. Our local berries won’t ripen until June, but I can always find some strawberries in the fruit aisle of my trusty food purveyor.

This Strawberries and Yoghurt Foam dessert strikes a nice balance: fresh berries as early ambassadors of spring, yoghurt foam corresponding perfectly with the berries. The light acidity of the yoghurt is enriched by an itsy bitsy tiny amount of heavy cream. And this innovative preparation can be made utilizing your whipped cream maker—but don’t worry if you don’t own one of these; I’ll provide an alternate preparation method.

Strawberries and Yogurt Foam
 
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A fresh and elegant strawberry dessert that's easy to make. The foam gives this a distinct modern feel that will impress your guests.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 1 lb strawberries
  • 8 oz plain yoghurt
  • 2 oz heavy cream
  • 2 tbls sugar
Instructions
  1. Clean and quarter the strawberries
  2. Mix the yoghurt, cream, and sugar in a bowl
  3. Fill the mixture into the whipped cream maker and load with 2 nitrous cartridges
  4. Cool in refrigerator for about 2 hours
  5. Shake well and dopple generously upon the fruit

In case you don’t own one of these fancy, gleaming, stainless steel, German-engineered iSi whipped cream makers, don’t despair… much. Instead, roll up your sleeves, get out the balloon whisk, and whip away. It won’t be as fluffy, and it won’t be as much fun as my yoghurt foam extravaganza, but the delightful taste will be the same.

The famous Spanish chef Adrian Faran was the inspiration for this wonderful recipe.

Guten Appetit!
Assembling the Strawberry and Yogurt Foam

DSC00902

 

Parmesan Crisps with Goat Cheese Mousse

Parmesan Crisps - Apetizer If you are planning a cocktail party and are in need of a sure-fire appetizer hit, these delicious Parmesan Crips with Goat Cheese Mousse should do the trick. Everybody will love the crunchy parmesan wafers crackling in their mouths while trying to get to the cool, savory mousse of goat cheese, herbs, and tiny morsels of shallot. It’s a big mouthful mess, but rewarding to eat. Here’s what you need:

For the Parmesan Crisps

1 chunk of Parmesan (say, one pound)

Parmesan Cheese That’s it! It couldn’t be easier to make these crisps—they are almost embarrassingly easy to make, like boiling water. Yes, that easy. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grind the Parmesan chunk with your grinder or KitchenAid. On a non-stick silicone pad arrange neat circles of ground parmesan. I use a round cookie cutter to make the circles pretty precise. While you could just distribute the Parmesan into little uneven hills on your half-sheet pan, such imprecision is just not allowed in this German’s kitchen. So it’s cookie cutter uniformity for me. Bake the cheese until it is bubbly and the familiar yellow starts to turn a little darker. You don’t want to burn the cheese, but if you take them out too early they will not be quite crisp enough.

(On a second thought, this was a little more complicated then boiling water.)

Let them cool and protect them from kitchen scavengers…

Ground Parmesan Circles Happy Parmesan Crisps

Stack of Parmesan Crisp Goodness

 

For the Goat Cheese Mousse

Enough about the crisps, let’s move our focus to the goat cheese mousse. You need:

1 log of fresh goat cheese
8 oz of sour cream
1 finely chopped shallot
1/2 cup of neatly cut chives
1/2 cup of neatly copped parsley
Salt and pepper
Maybe a little lemon juice or white vinegar, to taste

Mixing these ingredients is easier when they are all at room temperature. I use a fork, and work the thing until I have a fairly smooth result. Tasting and adjusting the seasoning is critical here. Salt and pepper of course;  maybe a little more salt (sorry Dr. Lefkowitz). And the acidity needs to be right. Don’t add so much that your batter tastes like a salad dressing. So, maybe just a teaspoon of lemon. Keep mixing, tasting… The acid, by the way, helps break the richness of the fat in the mousse. (You see, acidity is your friend!)

Put the mousse into a freezer bag and into the refrigerator. We want to cool the mousse there for a few hours, in order to give it just the right amount of ‘piping viscosity’.

Herbs and Shallots The making of a perfect Goat-Cheese Mousse The Assembly

About 30 minutes before your guests arrive you should arrange your assembly line. Cut a corner of your freezer bag and pipe a little circle of mousse onto your crisp. Neatly, please. A few carefully placed chive pieces completes your masterpiece. Now onto the next 49 pieces…

I have made these crisps a million times. The opportunities for variation are endless. So, sometimes the mousse is more of a cream cheese-and-milk something, simply because that’s what was in the fridge. Sometimes I feel like adding tiny flecks of red bell pepper and some paprika for seasoning. My left brain (or is it the right?) appreciates the creative challenge.

Credit for this wonderful appetizer goes to Thomas Keller. He published a much more sophisticated approach in the French Laundry Cookbook.

Guten Appetit!

Perfect Parmesan Crisps with Gout-Cheese Mousse