Photo: Danny Kim. Illustrations by John Burgoyne.

Commonly mistaken for gingerroot before it’s cooked and for potatoes after, the often misunderstood sunchoke—a.k.a. Jerusalem artichoke—is actually a member of the sunflower family. Betto chef Shaunna Sargent offers two fine preparations for the nutty, distinctive tuber: one roasted and puréed into a garlicky, flavorful spread, and the other sliced thinly and coated in an acidic dressing. Combined, they make for a refreshing, crispy-and-creamy salad that’s a breeze to make.

Shaunna Sargent’s Sunchokes and Pears

For Purée:
4 medium sunchokes (or enough to yield 2 cups cut into 1/4-inch slices)
2 shallots, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 sprigs thyme
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup, plus 2 tbs. olive oil
1 cup whole milk

For Salad:
2 large sunchokes, scrubbed well
2 large, very ripe Bosc pears
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 tbs. grated Pecorino cheese
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbs. white-wine vinegar
2 tbs. good olive oil
1 tbs. chopped tarragon
Salt and pepper

For Purée:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (1) Scrub the sunchokes well, and cut into ¼-inch slices. In a medium-size bowl, toss together sunchokes, shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. (2) Lay out on a baking sheet and roast until sunchokes are slightly golden brown and tender to touch. Remove thyme. Place everything in a small pot and cover with milk, bring to simmer, and cook an additional 20 minutes. Transfer to blender and blend until very smooth. Finish with 1/3 cup olive oil. Cool.
For Salad: (3) Slice sunchokes and pears on a mandoline, to about the thickness of a quarter. Add remaining ingredients and toss together. To plate: Spoon about 1/4 cup of purée onto each plate, arrange salad delicately on top and around, and drizzle with a little more purée. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and really good olive oil.