Low Carb Kitchen
Carb Solutions: Summertime Potato Salad
By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
Forgive this small tweak to the lyrics of a cherished old standard to promote eating healthy but…
summertime, and the living is easy. Fish are jumping, and the potato salad is piled high! That is, unless you are watching those carbs this bathing suit season or have been sentenced by a physician to life with no potatoes or possibility of a culinary parole. I can do without the jumping fish, but I can’t imagine a summer picnic table worth its celery salt without that traditional bowl of chilled potato salad. So, instead, I reimagined this dish by simply using a much overlooked and more glycemic-friendly tuber that, like the potato, has its origins in the Americas—the Sunflower Choke.
- The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
- The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
- Both the Index and Load scores should be checked to determine how a food affects the metabolism. A parsnip, for instance, has a very high glycemic index (97) but the fiber in a parsnip slows the conversion of its starch to glucose, so its glycemic load score is a very “digestible” 10.
Also marketed as “Jerusalem Artichoke” and “Sun Choke”, the Sunflower Choke has been a food source for centuries. Indigenous to North America, the root crop was cultivated by Native Americans prior to the arrival of European settlers. While the texture of a cooked Sunflower Choke is similar to an artichoke heart, the plant is not related at all; rather, it is a member of the same flower family as the sunflower. With a subtle nutty-sweet flavor, the root can be enjoyed raw diced into salads or salsas for added crunch, though the roots optimum flavor and versatility shines when roasted, boiled or mashed. Nutritionally, the tuber is rich in iron, potassium and vitamin B1, which contributes to the health of both muscles and nerves. Although the starch in Sunflower Chokes is converted to sugars by the body’s metabolism, their high fiber content slows that process so there is no spike in blood sugar levels. Comparatively, they have a much lower glycemic index score than potatoes with fewer calories and a GL of only 11 to a 5 oz. potato of 246!
Like many of my low carb recipes, this potato salad substitute was inspired by need. It was during a local heat wave when I got the cravings for the taste of potato salad again in spite of my carb count restrictions as a diabetic. Not to worry, he thought, there is always a close-enough dish just a keystroke search away that will no doubt satisfy this summertime hunger. Sure, if you like cauliflower! In fact, there are screen pages galore of mock potato salad recipes subbing in this member of the brassica family i.e. broccoli, cabbages, etc. Never mind that cauliflower is not a tuber, has a taste that is distinguishable blind-folded and no physical resemblance to a potato; O.K., it is white! Yet, since mayo and the traditional seasonings will cling to this veggie nicely, it seems to have become the go-to ingredient swap for this dish. For my tastes (no pun) a pretty low culinary bar. But then again, cauliflower producers are also trying to market their crop as mock rice too, so go figure!
Back to my web search. After giving it some culinary thought, the Sunflower Choke came to mind as probably a much closer facsimile. So I then narrowed my ‘net search to “mock potato salad + sunflower chokes”. No luck again! In the end I simply plugged this root crop into the salad recipe that I grew up on. After all, potato salad is one of those culinary hand-me-down dishes that most prepare the way they remembered it being served as a kid. I think this is where the recipe below came from – my childhood before I knew what a carbohydrate was – but not certain. It’s just the way I have always made it except for the one ingredient switch.
The result was a dish that I could not tell from the real thing! However, just to confirm that my wishful-thinking taste buds were telling the truth, I gave a portion of this dish to some friends who are not carb-counters, explaining that I had to prepare a batch of potato salad for one of my blogs but cannot eat it. The next day I was asked for the recipe of “that delicious potato salad” – a testament to both Sunflower Chokes and, probably, my mother’s original recipe. So I defy anyone, not named a blood-sugar meter, to detect this ingredient swap! It’s July, so keep an eye out for those jumping fish while enjoying this summer salad again without guilt or carbs!
Mock Potato Salad (NO cauliflower)
3 lbs. Melissa’s Sunflower Chokes, washed, peeled
3 TBS white vinegar
6 green onions, diced
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1½ cups mayonnaise
1 TBS yellow mustard
1 ½ tsp celery seed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced (garnish)
Smoked paprika (garnish)
Place peeled sunflower chokes into large pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium cook for about 30 minutes or until the chokes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool until just able to handle. Slice the larger chokes into smaller, bite-sized pieces, then transfer the still warm chokes to a large mixing bowl and toss gently with the white vinegar. Allow this mix to cool for about 15 minutes.
In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yellow mustard, celery seed, salt and pepper.
To the bowl of chokes mix in the green onions and chopped eggs, then toss this mixture gently with the dressing until thoroughly coated, season with more salt and pepper if needed. Chill for at least 3 hours, though most flavorful when refrigerated overnight.
PLATING: Once chilled, transfer to a serving bowl. Cut the last egg into thin slices to scatter over the on top of the salad, then finish with a generous sprinkling of paprika.