RECIPES: Potato, Parsnip, Rutabaga Casserole with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Parsnips and Turnips with Maple Glaze, Fall Vegetable Braise, Curried Sweet Potato Latkes, Au Gratin Potatoes with Ham and Apples, Whole Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes
his is prime time for some of the market’s unsung vegetable heroes. Drab or downright ugly, but packed with flavor, parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes (a.k.a. sunchokes) are reliable and quite versatile. Both lend themselves to many methods of cooking-roasting, sautéing, purees, and they are great in braises and soups, too.
Carrots eclipsed parsnips as a favorite most likely due to their sometimes-woody core and the fact they can burn more easily than carrots. I attribute this to higher sugar content in parsnips, which makes these creamy colored roots great as a purée on their own or mixed into mashed potatoes. Tossed into a mélange of other roots and roasted, parsnips are great as a foil to some of the earthier root vegetables that are coming into season. Since parsnips tend to cook faster than carrots, they are ideal for scattering around quick cooking roasts like pork or chicken. A few parsnips, some leeks or onion chunks, and some fingerling potatoes from Thomas Farms scattered around a roast would be a great quick cooking one pan meal. I also love them as a sauté with turnips and carrots and glazed. You can even use them in gratins or make a galette with them.
A word of warning here, some people find that eating raw sunchoke can make them quite windy. On the plus side, these vegetables are said to lower blood sugar levels for diabetics. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who experimented and found his sugar levels dropped as much as 25 points. He continues with his regular regime, but eats these whenever they are in season. I make no claims but I put this out there for general knowledge. If you decide to pursue this, please do so responsibly.
Also making the rounds again is one of the contenders for ugliest vegetables, the Jerusalem artichoke, a.k.a. the sunchoke. This very knobby and dirty looking vegetable has nothing to do with artichokes, and is in fact the root of a type of sunflower. The nutty flavor, much like sunflower seeds, comes across in the root as well, although it is subtle. These vegetables roast up nicely and have a texture like mashed potatoes inside a crisp jacket. They are wonderful sautéed as coins, and make a nice puree. I make a “cream” soup with onions and celery and a potato with these, and I like to garnish it with sunflower seeds or hazelnuts and a dollop of yogurt. When raw, the texture is similar to water chestnut.
Other unsung heroes amongst the market stalls are leeks, which can be used as an onion, as a salad (poached and chilled) with light mustard vinaigrette, and in soups, stews, and braises. Use leeks and fennel and make a “jam” to top roasts, add to soups, and slather in sandwiches. Also, stop by the Minazzoli’s to pick up some of my favorite nuts that are grown in the USA – pistachios. These are great out of hand, but I like them with cheese, stuffed into game hens or pork chops with rice. And if you miss pesto, pick up some arugula and make a “pesto” using pistachios.
And remember – artichokes and Brussels sprouts are at their best after a frost, and if you find artichokes that look frost burned, pick them up. The ugly parts cook off, and these are some of the most flavorful artichokes you will find. I guess some things really do thrive with stress.