Carb Solutions: Sunflower Choke Fritters
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 effect 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 bloodstream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based on how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate these calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for people with diabetes who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating low glycemic scores. They also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts has been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A QUICKIE GLYCEMIC PRIMER:
• 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 many 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 ten or less is low. </i>
One of the world’s most versatile and main food crops is the potato. The word fritter is derived from Latin “to fry.” Every country with a potato crop also has some version of a fried potato-in-a-batter dish. The Jewish culture has latkes; it’s called kartoffelpuffer in Germany and patatokeftedes in Greece; even this country’s own basic hash brown patty is a first cousin to the potato fritter. All have the same general characteristics: the tuber, in one form or another, is dipped or combined with a batter and fried to crispy golden goodness. Unfortunately for carb counters, on the glycemic scale of 1 to 100, the potato scores 82 when boiled and a whopping 111 baked!
A great glycemic potato substitute is the sunflower choke—aka Jerusalem artichoke, aka sunchoke. The multiple names of this root are very confusing and downright deceiving. It is the root of a flower, but not the sunflower; instead, it’s the root of an oversized, golden yellow, daisy-like wildflower, which grows and blooms in clusters of three. It does not come from Jerusalem either! The sunchoke is an indigenous vegetable of the Americas that has grown wild in the Northeast and eastern Canada for centuries. Native Americans introduced the root to early explorers, calling it an azkaban meaning “raw thing.” However, some Italian settlers who had no respect for the native language renamed the root girasole, a general Italian term for all flowers attracted to the sun. Apparently, two centuries of mispronouncing this word morphed it into “Jerusalem” (go figure!), and the misnomer has stuck ever since. Also, the “artichoke” part of its name also lends to the confusion. While both are members of the daisy family, the root is only a very distant relative botanically to the artichoke. Its taste is much milder with a hint of nuttiness. Of course, taste is very subjective, and this mix-up can be blamed on the palate of an early French explorer who simply compared the sunchoke’s taste to that of an artichoke in his travel notes. This rumor also became a fact, like the Jerusalem mix-up.
Sunflower chokes can be prepared in the same way cooking a potato. Although, unlike the potato, the choke can also be eaten raw, adding a crunchy clean sweetness to salads or served with a dip as an appetizer. Another big distinction from the potato is that the sunchoke is not only starch-free but contains a unique carbohydrate that the body converts into a natural form of sugar, making them particularly valuable in restricted diets, especially diabetes.
The inulin fiber in Jerusalem artichokes is beneficial for gut health because it helps regulate bowel function and acts as a prebiotic. Inulin stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria. Jerusalem artichokes are also a good source of potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and counteract the negative effects of sodium. The soluble fiber in Jerusalem artichokes can help lower high cholesterol and triglycerides.
Most importantly, when shredded and combined with the rest of the ingredients in this recipe and then fried to a crispy golden brown, the crunchy goodness of the fritter can be enjoyed for a third of the carbs as well as an abundance of value-added nutrients and health benefits that the traditional potato cannot come close to matching nutritionally. So, enjoy!
Sunflower Choke Fritters
Servings: 4 to 6 patties
For the fritters
½ pound Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed
1 carrot, peeled
3 shallots, thinly sliced
¼ cup almond flour
1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled finely and chopped (about 1 inch)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
Fresh black pepper to taste
Peanut oil for frying
For the dip
3 tablespoons chopped green onion tops
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Fritters: Grate Jerusalem artichokes and carrot into a mixing bowl. Add shallots. Stir in flour, ginger, salt and baking powder. Add eggs, season with pepper, and mix thoroughly. Chill before frying.
Dip: Combine chives, sour cream and lime juice, and set aside.
Pour oil ½-inch deep into a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until sizzling. Drop sunchoke mixture in two-tablespoon portions, flattening slightly. Fry until crisp and golden brown, turning once.
Serve with sour cream dip on the side.