Parsnips offer good seasonal options
Eat with the season by using parsnips, which offer surprising flavor.
Parsnips are perhaps the most unassuming and underappreciated members of the underground vegetable family. Sweet as carrots and earthy as squash, they are slightly nutty — reminiscent of chestnuts.
Parsnips turn creamy when boiled and mashed, and when oven-roasted, they become crisp on the outside and silky within. The flavor of parsnips works nicely with a variety of other flavors, from savory herbs such as parsley, thyme and rosemary, to the heat of ginger and chile peppers, to aromatic spices like curry, cumin and coriander.
Slather steamed parsnips with butter, then drizzle them with lemon, lime or orange for a delicious side dish.
You can still find fresh local parsnips in natural food co-ops and at the winter farmers markets. Look for the smaller roots and avoid the huge specimens that tend to be woody and have a tough central core. As with all roots, choose organic parsnips that are grown in chemical-free soil. Parsnips have a thick skin and are best peeled before cooking; use a sturdy peeler or paring knife.
To roast or sauté parsnips, it’s best to slice and blanch them quickly in boiling water, then drain and dry them before proceeding with a recipe.
Parsnips store at least a week when refrigerated in plastic bags. Low in calories, reasonably priced, available and good tasting, parsnips also serve as the root of a good winter soup, as with this recipe.
Recipe: Parsnip Bisque
Makes about 4 cups (serves about 4 to 6).
Note: This lush soup tastes plenty rich and is satisfying but, surprisingly, contains no cream. It makes a fine light lunch or supper paired with a green salad and crusty bread. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter or vegetable oil
• 1 c. chopped onion
• 1 lb. parsnips, peeled and chopped
• 1 medium-size Yukon Gold potato, peeled and chopped
• 3 sprigs fresh thyme
• 1 sprig fresh rosemary
• Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
• 3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
• Several shakes of hot sauce, to taste
• Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
• 1/4 c. sliced green onions
• Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
In a large heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onion, parsnips and potato until the potato begins to soften and the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.
Stir in the thyme, rosemary and nutmeg along with the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
Puree the soup in batches using a blender or immersion blender.
Return the soup to the saucepan to warm through and season to taste with the hot sauce, salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the green onions and parsley.