How can this gnarled and knobby vegetable offer such elegance? This soup deserves a pedestal, as the creamy alabaster liquid mingles with the equally regal pistachio oil and brilliant green toasted pistachios. The soup elicits looks of surprise from guests,followed by sounds of happy pleasure.
Equipment: A blender or a food processor; 8 warmed, shallow soup bowls.
1. Rinse a large saucepan with water, leaving a bit of water in the pan (this will prevent the milk from scorching and sticking to the pan). Pour the milk into the pan and add the salt.
2. Trim and peel the Jerusalem artichokes, and chop them coarsely, dropping them into the milk as you work (this will stop the vegetable from turning brown as it is exposed to the air). When all the Jerusalem artichokes are prepared, place the pan over medium heat and cook gently until they are soft, 35 to 40 minutes. Watch carefully so the milk does not boil over. The milk may curdle, but that will not alter the texture or flavor of the final soup.
3. Transfer the mixture, in small batches, to the blender or food processor. Do not place the plunger in the feed tube of the food processor or in the lid of the blender, or the heat will create a vacuum and the liquid will splatter. Puree until the mixture is perfectly smooth and silken, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat gently. Taste for seasoning. Transfer it to the warmed, shallow soup bowls, shower with the pistachios, and drizzle with pistachio oil.
Recipe from The French Kitchen Cookbook, reprinted with permission from William Morrow. Copyright © 2013 by Patricia Wells.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.