Salsify - The gnarly root that tastes like an artichoke heart
The current winter CSA from Roots to River Farm has been offering salsify in its selection of gorgeous root vegetables in the past few weeks. This little known and under appreciated vegetable, also for some reason called "oyster plant," is worth taking advantage of while the supply lasts because, yes, it's similar in taste and texture to an artichoke heart, and who doesn't love that? It is a long, thin brown-skinned root, similar in size to a carrot, but split into two or more thin branches at the root end. Peeling them reveals creamy white flesh that oxidizes, so have some acidulated water at hand.
I like to cook salsify in what the French call a blanc, a blanching mixture with lemon juice, a little flour, salt, and oil whisked into the water to keep oxidizing vegetables (like artichokes hearts, or, you know... salsify) white. For our CSA dinner recently I served them as a warm salad with a rich vinaigrette (recipe below), but they would also be delicious warmed in lemon juice, herbs, or melted truffle butter.
TENDER SALSIFY WITH BABY GREENS AND WALNUT-BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
1 pound salsify
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons organic walnut balsamic (from that great oil and vinegar store in the elbow of Frenchtown), more for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar or drop of honey
1 tablespoon truffle oil, optional
Baby salad greens such as arugula, mizuna, or kale
Fill a large bowl with cold water and halve and squeeze in two of the lemons. Rinse the salsify them peel with a vegetable peeler and drop in the acidulated water.
Put about 2 quarts of water in a 3 to 4 quart saucepan. Halve and squeeze the last lemon into it, add 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons of the oil, and whisk in the flour. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile slice the salsify into bite size pieces and return to the acidulated water. When blanc is boiling, drain the salsify and add to the pot. Simmer until tender, about 5 minutes, then drain.
In a small bowl combine the vinegar with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste, then whisk in the oils. Check seasoning, add a bit of lemon if you like. Steal a tiny bit of the vinaigrette for tossing the greens, then add the warm salsify to the rest and toss. Mound salsify on a plate and scatter greens around it. Add another drizzle of balsamic to the plate and serve.