Welcome to Health Goth , our column dedicated to cooking vegetables in ways that even our most cheeseburger-loving, juice-bar-loathing readers would approve of. Not everyone realizes this, but vegetables actually do taste good. We invite chefs to prove this assertion—and they do, time and time again.
When chef Julia Sullivan comes to visit the MUNCHIES Test Kitchen, we’ll admit: We’re a little tapped out on root vegetables. Winter in the northeast means many variations on potatoes, parsnips, turnips, and beets; many of them rich, creamy, and heavy. But it’s a crisp April morning, the sun is streaming in, and Sullivan knows just how to shake off our winter blues—using, yes, root vegetables.
At her Nashville restaurant, Henrietta Red, Sullivan keeps things simple and fresh. Landlocked state be damned, the restaurant serves a serious selection of oysters and clams, plus a menu that Sullivan calls “seafood- and vegetable-driven.” Leaning on that approach, Sullivan is here today with a springy take on sunchokes: served raw in a salad with apples, aged Cheddar, and sprouts.
If you’ve been sleeping on the sunchoke, what you should know is that it’s not related to ginger, though it looks like it, and it’s not quite like an artichoke, either, though it’s also called a Jerusalem artichoke. They taste mild, like the best-tasting raw potato possible, and, served raw, they have the playful snap of a perfectly-ripe pear.
Sullivan likes sunchokes for their texture, and that’s why she’ll be using them raw, instead of roasted or mashed. “They have a water chestnut-like quality, just like juicy,” says Sullivan as she sets up. “They have almost the consistency of a potato but without the starchiness; it’s an earthy crispness.” Using a mandoline, she shaves the sunchokes into thin rounds, leaving the peel on to keep its flavor. (Since sunchokes come from the ground, Sullivan cleans them well—you want the flavor to be earth, not dirt.)
This salad is simple and the steps are easy, so you don’t have to be a pro to put this together. Sullivan slices an apple into pieces of a similar size to add sweetness and crunch. She breaks up a block of aged Cheddar into bite-sized chunks using a fork, and then mixes together a quick dressing: a blend of lemon juice, chopped Calabrian chiles, olive oil, and salt and pepper.
She tosses the apples and sunchokes in the dressing, plates them, and tops it all with sunflower seeds and sunflower sprouts. Since apples and sunchokes both tend to oxidize, says Sullivan, you’ll want to make this salad just before serving to keep it looking its best. The result is a salad that’s refreshingly simple and perfectly balanced, with every bite leaving you chasing another taste of that salty cheese, bright dressing, and satisfying crunch.
You don’t even have to stick to the recipe: keep the sunchokes and the dressing, but play around with the cheese and the fruit, says Sullivan. “Any sort of aged cheese that has some funk and bite is going to stand up to the earthiness,” she says, recommending parmesan or pecorino. Try citrus instead of apples, especially in the winter; almonds or other nuts in the place of the sunflower seeds; and throw in whatever microgreens you can find. Really, you can’t mess this one up too hard.
Just use a guard when you’re on the mandoline, ya know?