by Nancy Sweet, director, culinary program and operations, Lincoln Land Community College
“There was a time when the only root vegetables anyone paid attention to were carrots and potatoes. Turnips were déclassé, celeriac unheard of, beets a pain to clean. The perception has changed, in part because it was all wrong; in part because if you’re going to eat seasonal and local, you are going to eat roots in winter, even if you live in California; and in part because roasted root vegetables are, like, the greatest thing ever.”- Mark Bittman
I could not agree more with Mr. Bittman, the award-winning food writer, cookbook author and former columnist for the New York Times. And, as someone living in central Illinois, this is certainly true, especially this time of year.
Last Saturday, I stopped by the Springfield Winter Farmer’s Market at the Third Presbyterian Church. There were local eggs, meats, honey and lettuces, but most prevalent were root vegetables – potatoes, turnips, radishes, beets and various winter squash. Knowing how well they hold, I decided to stock up.
Usually inexpensive, root veggies can be a great source of complex carbohydrates, antioxidants and many nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Naturally, each vegetables’ exact nutrient and calorie levels vary, but overall, they tend to be lower in calories and high in fiber.
Even better, root vegetables can be cooked in a variety of ways: grilled, roasted or braised, added to soups, casseroles and gratins, served whole or stuffed as the main course, and jazzed up as a side dish. Below are some recipes to incorporate some root vegetables into your cooking repertoire this winter.
Roasted Root Vegetables
Mark Bittman, New York Times Cooking
3 pounds assorted root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, celeriac, potatoes, sweet potatoes or radishes
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and/or parsley
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Peel vegetables as needed and cut them into 1-2 inch chunks.
Toss vegetables in a bowl with oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place them in a baking pan in one layer (use two pans if necessary).
Put vegetables in the oven and roast without stirring for 20 minutes. Check to see if they look dry or are sticking to the pan; if so, drizzle with a little more oil. Continue roasting, stirring or turning vegetables one more time, for another 20 minutes or so. Stir in herbs, then return the pan to the oven for about 20-30 minutes, until roasted and crisp.
Mashed Root Vegetables
Adapted from the Food Network
2 pounds assorted root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, turnips and rutabaga, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 bay leaves
Place all the vegetables and garlic in a large pot and fill with cold water to cover. Season with about 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are very tender.
White veggies are cooking, combine the cream, butter and bay leaves in a pot and heat over low to melt the butter but do not boil.
Drain vegetables and put them back into pot. Mash with a potato masher. Stir in the warm cream mixture (remove bay leaves first) and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
Mediterranean Sweet Potatoes with Chickpeas
Serves 4 side dishes or two main entrees
4 medium sweet potatoes
1, 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, cinnamon, smoked (or regular) paprika
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped parsley, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.
Rinse and scrub potatoes and cut in half length wise.
Toss rinsed and drained chickpeas with about ½ tablespoon olive oil and spices (cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika) and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Rub the sweet potatoes with a bit of olive oil and place flesh side down on the same baking sheet or a separate one if you need more room. Roast potatoes and chickpeas about 25 minutes, until chickpeas are golden brown and potatoes cooked through.
While that is roasting, combine tomatoes with parsley and lemon juice. Let marinate while potatoes roast.
When potatoes are done, serve flesh-side up and smash down the insides a little bit. Then top with chickpeas and parsley-tomato garnish.
Barley Salad with Apples and Butternut Squash
1 cup barley, cooked according to package directions, drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 small butternut squash, peeled, cubed, and blanched
1 granny smith apple, diced
¼ cup apple juice or apple cider or vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
about ¾ cup canola oil
½ cup blue cheese, optional
Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add squash and let cook 4-5 minutes. Add onions and let cook another 5 – 6 minutes, ensuring nothing browns too much. Add apple and toss together. Season with salt and pepper and add apple juice. Stir and remove from heat.
In a large mixing bowl, add barley and squash mixture. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, and Dijon Mustard. Slowly whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add dressing to barley squash mixture and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Add blue cheese if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.