Written and photographed by Natalie Hoch
The farmer’s market is just the best. I know by now it’s generally understood that eating locally and consciously is a fruitful and delicious way to live. It’s no longer the revelation it used to be to write about how great this long-standing marketing (as Julia Child called it) tradition is. And yet, there are always those days when it hits me more than usual just how much richer the farmer’s market makes my life and my kitchen.
Take one sunny, chilly Sunday a few weeks ago, when my husband and I decided to walk across Prospect Park from our St. Marks Ave apartment to Ditmas Park. It was just meant to be a stroll for exercise and enjoying the park, with hopes of a cappuccino and maybe a snack at the fabulous Farm on Adderley on the other end.
However, when we found the brunch line way too long for our liking, we grabbed our warm bevvies to go and decided to stroll down Cortelyou Road to check out the neighborhood a bit more. A few blocks down we stumbled upon a modest little market along the street with about five farm stands. We barely had cash and had no bags—we hadn’t planned on shopping—but the sight of these gnarly, knobby, soft brown roots caught my eye and I couldn’t resist.
Sunchokes, or as many cooks and farmers call them, Jerusalem artichokes, are the root of a variety of sunflower. A great source of iron (who knew!), these yummy little suckers are everywhere on menus and markets across the eastern US. They are in season from October to March, and they are flippin’ delicious. Confusingly, they are not related to the artichoke, but have a nutty, sweet flavor a bit reminiscent of it.
Aftter the Ditmas Park discovery, we brought our little sunchokes home and I threw together this crazy delicious salad by roasting them up with crispy pancetta, crunchy walnuts, and a small bite from vinegary shallot. Here’s how I made it:
Roasted Sunchoke Salad
Total time: 40 minutes
Makes 4 appetizer servings or 2 main course servings
- 1 medium head escarole (if you don’t dig the bitter greens, try butter lettuce)
- 1 shallot
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 pinch granulated sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 8 1/2 oz sunchokes (about 12 roots), scrubbed clean
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Pepper to taste
- 2 oz pancetta, chopped
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
< Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wash and tear the escarole into bite-size pieces. Slice the shallot into thin rings and toss in a small bowl with 3 tbsp of sherry vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a bigger pinch of salt. While the shallots macerate and soften in the vinegar, slice the sunchokes into thin rounds, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes or until caramelized and tender.
While the sunchokes roast, crisp the pancetta in a skillet over high heat and drain on paper towels. Roughly chop the walnuts.
Strain the shallots and reserve the vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk the vinegar with the Dijon mustard and a pinch of pepper, then slowly whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil.
When the sunchokes are tender, toss with the escarole, pancetta, walnuts, and sherry vinaigrette. I find this dish is best when the sunchokes are still a bit warm.