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Salsify? It's New to Me!

Salsify
Photograph by Steven Lake

Now that pop-up Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing has gotten a permanent landing place in the former Lilly’s space on Abbot Kinney in Venice, I was giving the dinner menu a once-over when an ingredient caught my eye: roasted salsify

Now, I don’t claim to know anywhere near everything about food, but I’ve never had salsify, let alone heard of it, so I reached out to Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing executive chef Kevin Kathman (French Laundry, NYC's Daniel)—who is currently serving it alongside a trio of roasted, raw, and pureed sunchokes—for a little more info on this mysterious root vegetable.

 

I've never had salsify; can you describe its flavor?
Salsify’s flavor when roasted is sweet and nutty with nuances of roasted artichoke heart. 

Where are you getting yours, and how long is the season for it?
The sunchokes are the real local seasonal feature in the dish. They come from a local farm called Colman Family Farm and are available from September into December. The salsify has just begun to be more widely cultivated in the United States in the south from Arkansas to the eastern seaboard, and as far north as Virginia. I have not been able to find a local source for salsify in southern California.

Any other preparation ideas for home cooks? Other ways you like to make it or other things you like to serve it with?
I find simply peeling and roasting the salsify with a little thyme and garlic is the best way to go. Be sure to hold it in a bit of acidulated water [water with a touch of lemon juice added] to prevent oxidization. For the sunchokes, the same applies. You can peel them, which can be quite time consuming given their odd shapes, or just wash them thoroughly. The sunchokes also make great purees to use as a sauce with a simple grilled fish.

Any pairing recommendations? (Beer, wine, or otherwise?)
I am a fan of white wines such as Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, or Reisling as pairings for these vegetables. 

What's the purpose of the three different sunchoke preparations?
The purpose of the three different preps of the vegetable to show the many techniques one can use to showcase such a beautiful vegetable, while preserving the integrity of it at the same time. Texture is such an important part of eating. By focusing on texture, a chef can greatly enhance a guests dining experience. We choose to serve a silky sweet puree, earthy roasted goodness, and a fresh, crisp, raw salad.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, wolfinsheepsclothingrestaurant.com