The winter months can bring a less varied selection of fruits and vegetables especially if you eat mostly locally grown produce. Of course we are abound with tubers and root vegetables. All kinds of squash (butternut, kabocha, spaghetti, acorn etc.), turnips, radish, parsnips, parsley root, rutabaga and so on. I for one really enjoy roasting a selection of root vegetables at the same time for a contrast in flavors and texture.
But if your purchase was determined on looks and familiarity you probably will skip the knobby brown little tubers Jerusalem Artichoke, also known as Sunchokes. It is a vegetable that is high in potassium, iron and fiber and is said to reduce cholesterol and act as a preventative of colon cancer. It is also very versatile and holds up well in all cooking techniques or raw.
Neither from Jerusalem (it was first cultivated by Native Americans but became popular in the Middle East) nor an artichoke (its flavor is reminiscent of artichokes) it is great raw, peeled and shredded or julienned in salads (soak in cold water and drain first), sliced and used in stir fries as you would water chestnuts, and roasted like you would a potato. When roasted it takes on a nutty flavor and creamy texture. Here is a recipe I recently came up with for a Middle Eastern themed dinner:
Carrot and Jerusalem Artichoke Salad with Pomegranate Seeds
3 large Jerusalem Artichokes, scrubbed and peeled
2 Medium Carrots, scrubbed and peeled
1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onion
Pomegranate seeds, scooped out from less than half pomegranate (refrigerate leftover)
3 to 4 tablespoons of Pomegranate Vinaigrette (see below)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Small handful parsley, minced (should have about 1/4 cup)optional
1. Julienne (thinly cut sticks preferably with a mandolin) the Jerusalem Artichokes and Carrots. You can soak the artichokes sticks in cold water for a few minutes while preparing the salad and then drain.
2. Mix the Jerusalem Artichokes, carrot, red onion, and pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Add salt and pepper and the vinaigrette and toss again. Garnish with parsley if using.
1/2 cup Pom or other pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (add more if you prefer tart)
3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil (or less)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
1. Place pom juice in a small saucepan and boil until more than half cooks out and you are left with a syrup. Be careful not to burn and when the bubbles start to get really big take off heat and see if it has thickened to a syrup. If not heat again for a few more seconds and check again.
2. Mix the pom syrup with the red wine vinegar and white pepper and salt. Slowly drizzle the evoo while whisking until it is blended thoroughly.
*image borrowed from http://home.howstuffworks.com/jerusalem-artichokes.htm