Ava Gene’s, the new-ish Italian joint by Stumptown founder and Woodsman Tavern owner Duane Sorensen, is a restaurant often on my mind. It is so Portland in that it is immaculately curated from the tiered frosted Edison light bulbs to a healthy marble bar, stylish servers, and dining soundtrack featuring Nirvana and the Fleet Foxes. I’m always quick to suggest it to friends looking for a new place to try.
And then there is the food. So very very good.
My last trip I stuck to veg sides; a carrot and pistachio salad composed only of roasted carrots and pistachios, grilled asparagus, and the sneaker hit, a sunchoke, date and radish melange.
I thought wistfully of this paper thin sunchoke and radish salad punctuated with bits of date a lot over the next few days, eventually picking up the ingredients to make it at home.
I don’t have much experience with sunchokes, or as they are also know, Jerusalem artichokes. I do, however, know they are as polarizing a vegetable as Brussels sprouts; folks either love’em or hate’em. At first glance, they resemble misshapen fingerlings rejects. Unlike potatoes, sunchokes can be eaten raw or cooked, and, well, have the same gastro effect as beans (just putting it out there).
Sunchokes turn quickly, and if preparing raw, best to cut them straight into acidulated water. You might already have known this. I didn’t, so, my salad was browned, but not for the worse.
The recipe, quite simple, goes a little like this:
Squeeze half a lemon into a bowl. Take 4 medium-sized sunchokes and give them a good scrub. Position a mandolin over the bowl of lemon juice. Slice the sunchokes straight into the bowl. Follow with radishes from a bunch. Cut and core a tart apple, such as a granny smith. Cut the half the apple into batoons (french fry shape) and add to the bowl with the radishes and sunchokes, eat the other half or save for another use. Pit 8-10 oil cured or kalamata olives and cut into slivers. Add to the sunchoke mixture. Repeat the pitting and slicing with 3 dates and add to the bowl. Toss together with a few shakes of sherry vinegar, or, more lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. If you have some chives growing in your garden, mince those and toss them in too. If you insist on olive oil, drizzle a bit of your absolute best olive oil over the salad and toss one more time. Enjoy!
If you are looking for more ways to use sunchokes, hop over to my PINTEREST board where I’ve collected a few yummy recipes from the interwebs, including the Saveur recipe for shaved sunchoke and apple salad that served as the inspiration for this recipe (reference it for measurements if you need it).