Autumn Cravings: Roasted Sunchoke Soup

Roasted Sunchoke Soup with hazelnut oil and pumpkin seeds

Roasted Sunchoke Soup with hazelnut oil and pumpkin seeds

Whenever I mention sunchokes, my friend Ariel inevitably brings up the sunchoke soup we both enjoyed as part of a benefit dinner three years ago. It was sinfully creamy with a robust nutty flavor and came indulgently topped with Dungeness crab. It was a soup I was scared to recreate for fear of tainting the fond memories of it.

Also I knew my at-home version would be pale in comparison as I just cannot add as much cream and butter as I’m sure would be necessary to fully capture the flavor of the original. These are why some dishes just taste better if you don’t make them yourself!

But when sunchoke season rolled around this year, I still felt the urge to make a soup. For my wallet’s sake, I eschewed the crab altogether and for the sake of my waistline I used half and half instead of cream. But happily for my belly, this soup was still outstanding and totally hit the spot on a blustery fall day.

Sunchokes, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are rhizomes that resemble gingeroot. They are knobby and fairly unattractive as far as produce goes. However, their unassuming appearance belies their deliciousness. They are sweet when roasted and inherently nutty in flavor. I cannot get enough of them, even overlooking their, well…troublesome nature.

To make this soup, I started with this recipe, changing things up slightly. The main change I made was roasting half of the sunchokes in the oven until they were caramelized. This gives the flavor of the soup some extra depth.

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Tales from the Garden: Can you dig it?

Sunchokes from my garden

Sunchokes from my garden

My single sunchoke plant from last year turned into 30 this year. The plants grew like crazy, each one boasting tons of pretty flowers:

Sunchoke blossoms

Sunchoke blossoms

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The Apple of my Eye: Applejack-Braised Chicken

Braised Chicken in Applejack

If I added up the amount of times I have used the word “Applejack” in recent posts, I’m sure it would be ridiculous. But it’s the season for deliciously boozy apple-flavored things. It’s called being festive!

So given my deep love for chicken, it only seemed natural to use both together in one fabulous dinner. I saw this recipe for chicken braised with apples, onions and Calvados in a recent issue of Food & Wine and it sounded perfect. I made it for the entree course of my harvest dinner party a few weeks ago, but I tried it out prior to the party to make sure it was sufficiently tasty.

I made it almost entirely as written though, as you  might have guessed from my first paragraph, I used Applejack instead of Calvados. While I’m sure Calvados would have been amazing in there, Applejack was certainly just as delicious. I also omitted the caraway because I think it is disgusting. It’s the spice that ruins “everything” bagels — the smallest amount in my food makes me angry. Since I had some fresh thyme and sage, I used them instead — they are two herbs that get along famously with apples so it seemed like a good addition.

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Cider + Liquor + Cajeta = Deliciously Evil

I love having a signature cocktail when I throw a party. Last year at my honey-themed birthday party I had a station set up where guests could make a Honey Badger (St. Germain, honey syrup and sparkling wine). So when I hosted my harvest-themed dinner party, I decided to come up with something fun to drink besides wine.

Since I had just made my own home-pressed apple cider, I used that as a base. I heated it up with some mulling spices to give it more flavor, letting it simmer for about 10 minutes with a cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice and dried orange peel. Once the spices were strained out, I contemplated my liquor cabinet.

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Harvest Party: Winning at Wining & Dining in Autumn

Acorn Doughnut Hole Party Favors

It’s a known fact I love nothing more than to throw a party. Give me any reason whatsoever and I will come up with a theme, research recipes and try my hardest to make my house as adorable as possible. So when some of the favorite ladies in my life and I decided to plan a little drinking dinner party, I quickly volunteered to host. We decided on the seasonally appropriate theme of “Autumn Harvest” and decided to do it as a pot-luck style sit-down dinner.

I got into the spirit by decorating my house:

An autumn-inspired wreath helps corral the wine glasses

Autumn potpurri and hors d’oeuvre plates

And as always, a touch of class

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Tales from the Garden: Sunchoke Harvest

I have never been successful in growing things that I can actually eat. My rather large strawberry patch produced one puny berry this year and in consecutive years, my husband and I killed three rosemary bushes. But my luck has changed!

This spring, a friend gave me a sunchoke plant. I was apprehensive but optimistic.
I love sunchokes and was very excited at the prospect of being able to grow my own. The best thing about these plants is that they are regenerative. Just leave some in the dirt and the next spring, another plant will grow.

At any rate — my plant took off and grew like crazy, towering over our 8-foot tall fence. I was so proud!

Once the sunflower-like flowers died, it was time to pull the plant up and see what it produced. Here’s what I found nestled in the ground:

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