Rooting for favorites: Ugly vegetables deserve more respect

October, 2008 Posted in Food And Drink

Ugly root vegetables come filled with nutrients packaged in their own skin. When shopping for them, select heavy, solid smooth skinned roots because lightness indicates that they are overblown, hollow and woody inside.By Jan Jackson

A steaming plate of lightly boiled turnips that have been sliced, sautéed in butter and sprinkled with a little sugar is a tasty thing to behold – as are big pots of winter stews and soups laced with rutabagas, parsnips, carrots, potatoes (and more turnips) and other ugly root vegetables that get a bum rap because of their looks.

Celery Root Bisque
1¼ pound celery root, peeled and cubed
1 large potato, peeled, cubed
2 leeks
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 to ½ cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped 

Place celery root and potatoes in
cold water with a few drops of lemon
juice. Trim leeks and slice into ½-inch
rounds. Melt butter in a large saucepan.
Add leeks and garlic. Cook until leeks
are soft and garlic is golden, about
5 minutes. Add chicken stock, celery
root, potatoes, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat
and simmer until potatoes are tender,
about 30 minutes.

Puree in batches in a food processor.
Strain through a sieve. Place puree
back in pan. Simmer, adding enough
cream to obtain proper thickness.
Adjust seasoning. Serve garnished
with scallions. Serves 4.

Root vegetables started out as fare for peasants and the poor. Because they can survive cold storage, they are invaluable for winter nutrition when little else is growing. Economically priced and good keepers, root vegetables are vitamin packed.

Some of what we call root vegetables are instead corms, rhizomes and tubers. To be a true root vegetable, it should grow underground and play the role of a root for the plant, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the ground. Examples of real root vegetables are carrots, horseradish, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips and turnips. We all know the carrot – the most universally popular member of the root vegetable family, but what about the other stuff that grows under the ground? Restaurants have successfully stumbled onto sweet potato fries but have yet to bring out rutabaga fries, which are just as delicious.

Though you can find root vegetables in the produce section, more than likely you will be on your own to figure out what to do with them when you get them home. Just for fun, we’ve picked a recipe made the absolute ugliest of them all – celery root.

Oregon is a big producer of root vegetables and cookbooks and the Internet are full of great recipes. Eat local, eat winter and bon appetit.

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