You know what is one of the best combinations in the world?Â Tomatoes and bread.Â Pizza, bruschetta, and panzanella are all products of this delicious combination, and I love all three of them.Â But you know what makes an even better combination?Â Tomatoes, bread, and sunchokes.
I see sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem Artichokes) at the farmer’s market every week, and I buy them pretty often, to add to other dishes for a little crunch. Â Unpeeled, they look a little bit likeÂ fresh ginger, but when you peel them, they have a really light, mild flavor and terrific crunchy texture.Â I like to add them raw to salads, or use them in place of celery for things like tuna salad… which I usually make with salmon, so can I really call it tuna salad?Â But I digress.
Saturday of this weekend was intensely beautiful in New York, and I woke up early and couldn’t sleep, so I decided to walk from my (uptown) apartment all the way down to the farmer’s market.Â I love how sleepy the city is on weekend mornings, before the restaurant brunchesÂ pick up, when the stores are still closed and the streets are quiet.Â For the city that never sleeps, Saturdays and Sundays before 10 am get pretty close.
But then I got to the farmer’s market, and found the portion of the city that, like me, was awake and excited.Â Suddenly, in the last few weeks, it seems the farmer’s market has doubled in size.Â Whereas in January, even on the weekends, there would only be a few choices of things to buy, suddenly now there are tents upon tents of potted and cut flowers, fresh herbs, even vegetable plants for sale!Â And squeezed in between them are the stalls that I’ve been buying from all winter,Â and suddenlyÂ I now have to wait in line.Â
Spring vegetables still aren’t available, but I think the closeness of spring makes me value the last winter veggies a little bit more.Â So when I saw sunchokes, I wanted to celebrate spring using what’s actually available in Manhattan in April: Sunchoke Panzanella.
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
3 medium-sized sunchokes, cut into 1/2 to 3/4″ pieces
4 large slices of sourdough bread, or a little less than a demi-baguette, cut into cubes
3 large shallots, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. In a large skillet, toast bread in 2 tbsp olive oil until crispy and golden.
2. Mix toasted bread, tomatoes, sunchokes and basil in a large bowl.
3. Whisk together remaining olive oil and vinegar, drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Serve.
Serves three to four.