- 1 1/2 pounds sunchokes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 thyme sprigs
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, crushed
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, preferably Merlot
- 1 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Chardonnay, Champagne or white wine vinegar
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1/8-inch dice
- 1/4 cup unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup snipped chives
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche
- 1 teaspoon walnut oil
- 4 ounces watercress, thick stems discarded
- Preheat the oven to 375°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sunchokes with the olive oil and thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until crisp-tender. Let cool completely. Discard the thyme sprigs.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the olives with water and bring to a boil, then drain the olives. Repeat this blanching step 2 more times. Return the olives to the saucepan. Add the red wine vinegar and the agave and bring just to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the olives are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the olives and any liquid to a food processor and puree until smooth. Scrape the puree into a small bowl and season with salt and pepper; let cool completely.
- In a small saucepan, cook the sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of water over moderate heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully add the Chardonnay vinegar. Cook over moderate heat until the caramel is dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir in the apple and cook until hot, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sunflower seeds and 2 tablespoons of the chives. Season the relish with salt and pepper and let cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the crème fraîche and walnut oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooled sunchokes and the remaining 2 tablespoons of chives and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad gently. To serve, spread some of the olive puree on 6 plates and arrange the watercress on top. Spoon the dressed sunchokes over the watercress and top with some of the apple relish.
The olive puree and roasted sunchokes can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.
White wines that are slightly oxidized develop nutty, apple flavors that are just killer with this salad. Try one from France’s Jura region where this style is quite popular.