A recent trip to Israel provided me endless inspiration in the kitchen. I had an incredible time exploring the country, dining with friends and learning some amazing new recipes. It’s particularly fitting that the first recipe I’m sharing from my trip is Jerusalem Artichoke Soup – especially since I learned the recipe just a hop, skip and a jump from Jerusalem!
On our trip we had dinner with our good friends Ido Aharoni and his wife, Julie Goodman Aharoni. For many years, Ido was the Consulate General of Israel in New York. He recently moved on from his ambassador post and has settled in a beautiful community just outside of Jerusalem. My husband and I had the pleasure of enjoying a home-cooked meal prepared by Julie and their lovely daughter, Sharon. They prepared some amazing falafel and they gave me a gift of a falafel scoop– can you believe I’ve never used one before? I’ve always just rolled them with wet hands the old fashioned way. Gadgets are fun!
To start the meal, Julie and Sharon brought out the most delicious Jerusalem Artichoke soup. The flavor was so unique that I knew I had to share it with you. Julie generously sent me the recipe, which is deceptively simple but delivers a rich and complex flavor.
Despite their name, Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, have no connection to Jerusalem or to artichokes. These oddly-shaped tubers have a slight resemblance to fresh ginger and are actually a relative of sunflowers. Native to North America, Jerusalem artichokes were a staple in Native American gardens. In the early 1600’s French explorer Samuel de Champlain stumbled upon them in one of these gardens; when he tasted them, he noticed they had a similar flavor to artichokes.
Later, when they arrived in France, Parisian street vendors began calling them topinambours, French for tubers. Sometime before 1633 they arrived in Italy, where they were known as girasole, which translates to “turning toward the sun.” It is believed that the word girasole eventually evolved into “Jerusalem,” resulting in the name Jerusalem artichoke.
Throughout history these tasty little tubers have experienced times of popularity and decline. During the early 1600s in France, they were favored over potatoes until a strange rumor declared that were a cause of leprosy, possibly due to the texture of their outer skin resembling the effects of the disease. They were often turned to for sustenance during times of famine. Explorers Lewis and Clark ate them during their expeditions.
Julie finishes this soup with a garnish of chopped chestnuts and truffle oil, which is just lovely. I think chopped pistachios and a drizzle of chili-infused oil would also work well. Or forego the garnish, if you wish– it’s nice all on its own, too.
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Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
- 2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 whole onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock (if not vegan or vegetarian, you may substitute chicken stock)
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- Salt and black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne
- Chopped chestnuts or chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)
- Flavored oil for garnish (optional - my friend Julie uses truffle oil)
- Peel the Jerusalem artichokes, then chop them into quarter-sized pieces. In a soup pot, heat up olive oil over medium heat. Saute minced onion until soft. Add the garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the chopped Jerusalem artichokes to the pot and cover with vegetable or chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let the artichokes cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and tender.
- Stir in the coconut milk and bring back to a low simmer. Stir in a pinch of cayenne, salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper).
- Remove soup from heat. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
- Garnish with chopped chestnuts or pistachios and a drizzle of truffle oil, if desired.