Northern Michigan Foodie: When Craig and Mary Rapin sold their pharmacy, Prescription Services (still located in Petoskey’s Burns Professional Building), it was to purchase a sprawling farm in Cross Village where they could better practice a philosophy they’d honed for years: that good nutrition is the basis of good health. Three years later Bliss Gardens Farm & Community Kitchen is a hive of nutritious activity where the Rapins forage for native plants, grow organic veggies and native fruit trees, and teach cooking/nutrition classes. There are so many healthy projects going on in and around Bliss Gardens, in fact, that Mary has to stop and remember to cook. “I know that when I don’t have time to cook for my family things are out of balance,” she says.
On an early spring day you might find Mary in her kitchen stirring up a pot of Sunchoke and Leek soup. Mary loves the sunchoke, also known as Jerulasem artichoke, for its nutty flavor and because it is available nearly year round (it can overwinter beneath the soil). On the nutrition side, this tubular relative of the sunflower is packed with iron, potassium, phosphorous and vitamin C. Simple to grow, sunchokes are also available in most well-stocked produce sections and at spring farmers markets. As for the leeks in this recipe, find those on a walk in the woods when the snow melts.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks (use wild ones if available) halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
1 & 1/2 to 2 lbs sunchokes, skin on, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
2 teaspoons dried or a handful chopped fresh, tarragon
2 bay leaves
5 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
Optional: seasonal greens such as arugula, spinach, or dandelion, chopped
Optional: sautéed chopped mushrooms or bacon for topping
Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in soup pot. Add the leeks and stir and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sunchokes, celery, carrot, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Turn heat up to high and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the tarragon and bay leaves and cook another minute until fragrant. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and discard bay leaves. Reserve about 1/3 of soup in the pot and pour 2/3 into blender and blend until smooth. Add back to pot and stir. If desired, place a handful of greens in the bottom of each soup bowl before ladling in the soup. Add topping if desired and serve.