Sunday, November 27, 2011


Helianthus tuberosus, sunroot, sunchoke, topinambour, earth apple. I've never cooked a vegetable with so many names. 

Last Sunday afternoon, Bella wrote up a list of all the dinners she wanted for the week. Then she handed me a detailed grocery list as I mumbled, "Where do you come from? Are you sure we're related?" I never plan more than a day ahead for meals.

The most common name is Jerusalem artichoke. But they have nothing to do with Jerusalem and they aren't even in the artichoke family.

Having taken care of the meals for the week, Bella looked down at my scrappy boots and took on my fashion sense.

Above ground, the yellow flowers are similar to those of the sunflower (they are, in fact, both members of the Asteraceae family), leading to yet another name: girasole (Italian for sunflower).

"Mama. Really. You would look so great in high-heeled super shiny tall black boots."

The girl I cooked up almost nine years ago is now encouraging me to bring out my trashy side.
If you say girasole ten times fast it really does start to sound like Jerusalem. Just a theory. Try it?

"Mama, can I get streaks in my hair?"
"Like blond streaks?"
"No, like turquoise or pink."

I've always wanted pink streaks in my hair. She will not get them first.

Below ground, the edible tubers are often confused with the ginger root.

Bella sat down to help me prep dinner and teach Dash how to peel Jerusalem artichokes (with a few pauses in there for daydreaming).
"Turn the peeler around. That's right, Dashi. Well done."
"But Bella, this is so HARD."
"Dashi, you're doing it. You're amazing."

The texture is somewhere between potatoes and jicama.

They managed to peel about 20 of them before Dash grabbed Bella's peeler. So she smacked him upside the head. He punched her in the ribs. She told him she would hate him forever. And he took out his cardboard sword and threatened to kill her. 

When you peel them, reddish steaks might appear directly below the skin, almost like burst blood vessels.

In a disturbingly calm voice I said, "I'm done with both of you. Done." 

Dash looked stunned. His mama can still break his heart. But Bella, unfazed, grabbed her glasses and started to read.

Don't eat too many in one sitting because they're hard to digest and can make you gassy.

I put on my headphones, pretended I didn't have children, and researched Jerusalem artichokes.

For an easy purée, boil 20 or so peeled Jerusalem artichokes in heavily salted water for about 10 minutes (they cook very fast). Drain off water and return them to the pot. Over low heat, mash with a fork but keep it a bit chunky. Add 1/2 stick of butter, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Taste. Adjust. Serve immediately topped with chopped chives and/or parsley. You could certainly skip the butter and cream and use milk instead. But that would be sad.
The next morning, Bella made her own breakfast, helped Dash get dressed, and then reminded me to marinate the lamb chops. I hugged her her so tight she gave me the double eye roll. I ran my fingers through her hair, and considered her request.

"So, Bella. Streaks, eh? I'm open to that. Should I get some too?
"What? Really? No, mama. I don't think they would look good with your clothes. You wear too much grey."

So I went online and researched boots.


  1. Oh, Phyllis, I love your writing style and your kids are more than adorable :) How old Bella is now? Looks like the young smart and caring woman is growing up quickly.

    and as I have some Jerusalem artichokes in my pantry right now, I think I'm gonna make this mash. Or should cook a soup? maybe you have some serious recipes for the sunchoke soup?

  2. Egle: thank you for what you wrote. and so funny you should ask about soup. i do have a pile of them peeled and ready for soup. i'm very predictable with my soup. soften onions, celery, carrots in butter an olive oil. add a big (or small) mash of anchovy, garlic, and tomato paste. then white wine. chicken stock. followed by jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, and turnips. cook until tender. last 5 minutes i add chopped kale. and i top each bowl with croutons and lots of parmesan and pine nuts. let me know what you try!

    but i have to say that the puree was quite tasty. might work well with buttermilk as well. and maybe some gruyere?

    bella is 9 next month. hard to believe!

  3. Sounds really tasty. I love all the tubers and roots. So this soup - my kinda food.

    First I was thinking of kinda more simple soup: sunchokes, broth, olive oil, topped with roasted and crushed hazelnuts. Or this one here:

    But now I might be converted... :) We have guests coming this weekend, so I have my menu planned for today, but I think this soup could make to my lunch table on Sunday.

    An the mash. Definitely trying this today as I have some Gruyere left in the fridge.

    Thanks for sharing and caring ;)

  4. As an expectant mother who loves to cook, your blog has become a visual role model for how i want to approach parenthood and food.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us. And i fully support the pink streaks!

  5. Egle: hazelnuts? love that. gruyere toasts would be good with the soup too. and btw, you could steam the jerusalem artichokes instead of boiling (for the mash). i should add that to the post.

    catherine: wow. what an incredible thing you wrote. made me choke up. and yes! go pink steaks!

  6. catherine: pink streaks! not steaks. hee hee.

  7. I've never heard of Jerusalem Artichokes, a trip to Berkeley Bowl is now required. :)

    I've had purple streaks in my hair, they fade very quickly to silver which sometimes look a bit funky. I love changing my hair color though :) its an addiction really ;-p They have those fun feather extensions now, you can get those in purple and I think they stay in for 3 months.

    Love, love, love the picture of you pregnant :)

    Great post :)

  8. I agree with Bella - the boots are a must. and after checking them out - I am lusting after seeing you cook and dominate anything in them.

    blessings - as always - for the lovely pics and the soulful writing.

    xoxox, rmo

  9. I left you a comment from my iPhone when this first posted, but I think it got eaten by trolls.

    Your writing and photos continue to stun me. Keep them coming, please. (And that photo of the Jerusalem chokes with Dash in the background? My heart pitters, patters, then pitters again.)

    Tomorrow, I shall seek out Jerusalem artichokes and reassess my footware.

  10. As a mama of a daughter (3) and son (1), I'm LOVING reading about your journey and the way you live life with your kiddos in the vulnerable and transparent.

  11. first time visitor. This post made me laugh out loud - was feeling a little intimidated before I got to the attempted murder scene. Am signing up immediately - love your work.

  12. I love your work and the way you write! Will you ever write again?

  13. thanks for all your lovely comments. and eunice, for some reason when i posted 2 weeks ago the wrong date went up of nov. 27th! i usually post every 2 weeks or so. but because of the holidays things are moving slowly. hopefully next week a post will go up about making beef stock and french onion soup. thanks for asking and check back in next week!

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