Thursday, March 10, 2011

You Voted...

What is your favourite gourmet food item in the kitchen? Readers took the poll and the votes are tallied.
Jerusalem Artichokes take the cake! These little buggers are wonderfully delicious and hold much potential in the kitchen. The perennial plant takes the form of a fibrous tuber, existing as the root to a sunflower plant. They were part of the cornucopia found by European explorers of the New World, one cultivated by the Natives. Champlain made sure that this plant had a spot on the boat back to Europe. It quickly made its way over to France and then swiftly over to Italy. The English also received their share but  rejected it for its taste - a quality prized by the other countries. The plant goes by many names - Sunchoke, Jerusalem Artichoke or Canadian Potato. Historians believe that this vegetable didn't grow in popularity like the potato did because of its more pungent taste (vs. the neutral potato) as well that it caused a reaction in the stomach producing gas amongst its eaters. (Just eat it in moderation...) The name is deceiving, as it is neither an artichoke, nor did it originate in Jerusalem. Many consider the name to be a corruption of the Italian title for it, "Griasole Articiocco," meaning sunflower artichoke. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful ingredient because its taste is so unique. You can eat them with their skin on or off. They are fantastic stirred into soups and stews, made into gratin dishes, used instead of potatoes in a pot roast, blended into smooth purees, sauces and julliened into in stir-frys. They store easily in a cold cellar and are available during the fall, winter and spring. It is said that the spring variety is sweeter because the frost has altered their chemical sugars. They are a good source of iron and are very low in calories (if you're concerned about that kind of thing), but I tend to pan fry slices in butter.....They'll cost you a little more than carrots and potatoes but they are, in my opinion, a  superior root vegetable that are worth the money because they will refresh your taste-buds in the winter onslaught of root vegetable madness.

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