Parsnips - A True Winter Vegetable
Although these carrot relatives have a surprisingly sweet flavor, they never really took off in popularity in the West. Before being replaced by the more versatile potato, parsnips were a staple root in many European countries. Today I gather that most Westerners haven't a clue as to what a parsnip tastes or even looks like.
Parsnips look much like carrots, except that they have a tannish hue and are usually much wider around the base. Basically, they look like bulbous albino carrots, even though their flavors are quite different. Unlike carrots, parsnips are usually not eaten raw, as they have a tough texture and a strong distinctive taste that mellows when cooked. Their sweetness brings a distinctive nutty flavor to all kinds of foods, particularly soups and roasted vegetables. They can be boiled, roasted, steamed or sauteed, and can be mashed like potatoes.
On the nutrition end, parsnips have a good amount of insoluble dietary fiber, making them a good choice for constipation and colon disorders. They contain minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
Choose parsnips that are firm and sturdy and that are tan or creamy-white in color. The larger the root, the woodier it will be, so pick small to medium sized roots for the best flavor and texture. Parsnips are a fall and winter vegetable and are sweeter when exposed to cold weather.
Prescription for Dietary Wellness, Phyllis A. Balch
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood
The New Food Lover's Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst
Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips [print recipe]
Yield: 4 side servings
The addition of parsnips adds a sweet and nutty flavor to this mashed potato look-alike. True sweet potatoes (vs. yams) have a creamy, light colored flesh and resemble potatoes when cooked. The combination of sweet potatoes and parsnips make an exceptionally rich and sweet side to meats, tempeh and warming winter foods of all kinds.
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 medium parsnips, peeled and rough chopped
1/4-1/2 cup milk or broth
1-2 tablespoons ghee or butter (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring a pot of water to boil. Place the potatoes and parsnips into the pot and boil until tender, 15-20 minutes.
Remove the potatoes and parsnips to a large bowl and add the milk and optional ghee. Mash the vegetables, adding salt, pepper, and more ghee and milk if desired. Serve warm.
Maple Roasted Parsnips and Onions [print recipe]
Yield: 4 side servings
8 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons melted ghee, butter or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 yellow onion
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the parsnip slices on a large sheet pan and pour the ghee and maple syrup over the parsnips. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and toss the parsnips with a wooden spatula to blend.
Slice the onion in half through the stem and root, leaving the skins in place. Make a space for them on the sheet pan with the parsnips (they can be surrounded on all sides with the parsnips) and place the onions, cut-side down, onto the pan.
Place the pan in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through roasting (leave the onions cut-side down) until the vegetables are tender and golden.
When the onions are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and slice the onions into slivers. Toss the onions with the parsnips and serve warm.
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