There’s nothing glorious about root vegetables. In fact, they’re often deformed-looking, intimidating, and tough objects that don’t possess nearly the same charm as plump, deep red summer tomatoes or crisp granny smith apples. When I see celeriac, parsnips, or turnips at the market, I’m not overwhelmed with an urge to devour them like I am with, say, a bowl of blueberries. I don’t start conjuring up recipes or salivating at the thought of the earthy aroma they would create in my kitchen. Besides the more common ones (i.e. carrots, potatoes, onions, and yams), I ignored root vegetables for a long time. 22 years, to be exact.
However, as the winter months came around here in France and temperatures dipped, locally grown root vegetables started taking center stage at the market. Remaining steadfast in my commitment to eat in tune with the seasons, I abruptly ended what was a root vegetable-free life.
And I’m sure glad I did, because these winter wonders are packed with fiber, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin A to keep me going throughout the winter.
My first foray into the root vegetable world was roasted purple and golden turnips. Their mellow flavor paired well with the carrots, potatoes, and onions I had on hand. For a burst of color, I threw in some fresh parsley, although other herbs such as rosemary or thyme would also add a depth of flavor to this side dish.
Roasting is always a safe bet and was a perfect way for me to begin experimenting with these more unfamiliar ingredients. Once that was conquered, however, it was time to tackle the big guys. In other words, celeriac. Otherwise known as celery root, this vegetable has a subtle celery-like flavor and is a staple in French kitchens.
Drawing inspiration from bon appétit, I made a celery root veggie burger by sautéeing the slice until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes per side) and then transferring it to the oven to roast until tender (about 12 minutes).
My black radishes ended up as chips. Although I don’t have a mandoline on-hand here in France, a sharp knife did the trick.
And voilà… a burger with chips. Too far?
Just go with it.
Black radishes can also be roasted whole in the skin. After 45 minutes or so, take them out of the oven and, once cool, peel away the skin. At this point, either mash or cube the tender bulbs.
I was on a mission to clean out my refrigerator last week, which explains my baked sweet potato loaded with black radishes, avocado, and roasted walnuts. A very impromptu, but surprisingly delicious, combination.
Let’s be honest, though, there aren’t many things that can go wrong when sweet potato is involved.
And last but certainly not least… parsnips. Although a dull beige color, they closely resemble carrots and have a similar sweetness. Unlike carrots, however, they contain more starch – there’s an earthier side to them. I cut one large parsnip into segments to bake with a hefty sprinkle of herbes de provence and coarse sea salt.
Parsnip fries may just be my new favorite food, especially when added to this bowl of lettuce, cucumbers, avocado, and garbanzo beans.
In hindsight, I’m ashamed to say I relegated root vegetables to the sidelines simply due to their daunting appearance. Not anymore. They’re the humble unsung heroes of the vegetable world, and I’ll make room for them any day in my kitchen.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
- What are your thoughts on root vegetables?
- Have you experimented with any varieties that have surprised you?