Course 3 - Sunchoke, kohlrabi

Traditional Kaiseki is all about showcasing seasonal ingredients. Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes, are bizarre knobbly-looking root vegetables in the sunflower family. Kohlrabi is another root vegetable that is compared to broccoli stems, the kind of thing people typically puzzle over in CSA baskets. I was able to find both at my local farmer's market before cooking, but this dish follows a pretty simple formula that can be adapted many ways throughout the year depending on whats available to you.

In general, a good formula for putting together pureed soups is to sweat alliums in butter (onion, shallot, leek, etc), add your vegetable(s) of choice, aromatics, water or stock, simmer until tender, blend, season, and serve. This particular version is a hot pureed soup of sunchokes to serve after the crackers and sandwich from before, and topped with some crunchy, acidic pickled kohlrabi colored a brilliant red hue by beet slices. I chose to use water instead of stock to focus on the pure flavor of vegetables, but you could use stock for a richer flavor as well.

Ingredients

Makes about 2 cups.

For the beet-pickled kohlrabi:

2 bulbs kohlrabi

1 red beet

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 cup water

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

For the soup:

3 shallots

3 cloves garlic

8 sunchokes

Champagne vinegar

Cayenne pepper

Xanthan gum (optional)

4 croutons

Beet-pickled kohlrabi

Daikon sprouts or other green

Equipment:

Sous vide setup (optional)

Directions

  1. At least one day in advance, prepare the beet-pickled kohlrabi: peel and slice the kohlrabi and beet. Heat your sous vide unit to 185F. Combine all ingredients in a bag, and cook for 45 minutes using the water displacement method. If not using sous vide: bring everything except the kohlrabi and beet to a boil and pour over the vegetables. Reserve in refrigerator.
  2. Peel and slice the shallots, garlic, and sunchokes.
  3. Sweat the shallots and garlic in butter and a small amount of oil in a pot over medium heat until translucent and slightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add in the sliced sunchoke, and enough water to barely cover. Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, or until the sunchoke is very tender.
  5. Transfer contents of pot to blender and blend thoroughly until smooth. Season to taste with the champagne vinegar, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Add a pinch of xanthan gum to thicken the soup if desired, or more water or stock to thin.
  6. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, and reserve; you can serve immediately or chill and reheat when needed.
  7. To serve: julienne a piece of the beet-pickled kohlrabi. Put a crouton at the bottom of a demitasse cup. Spoon over the hot soup, and garnish with the pickle julienne and the sprouts.

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