Got Root Vegetables?

Rutabagas, basking in sunlight.

Root vegetables are misunderstood.  They are even scoffed at.  A shockingly large amount of people have never tried a turnip before!

Every C.S.A. year, as fall rolls around and the root vegetables start to roll off the Red Fire Farm truck, the eternal question emerges:

“What do I do with [root vegetable]?”  “I’ve never made anything good with [root vegetable].”

I try my best to answer this as best as possible, because, truth be told, root vegetables get the short end of the stick in most cookbooks, leaving only a few recipes for them, compared to the more glamorous vegetables like tomatoes.

Cut up chioggia beets from a while back.

I will be honest, there was a time that Theresa and I weren’t so ‘into’ root vegetables ourselves.  We had a bad experience with a big bitter waxed rutabaga bought from the grocery store….. and certainly left a big bad taste in our mouth about it.   But now that we get delicious fresh produce from local farms, we are singing a different tune.  And now that we are on a local food challenge, our ability to utilize this wonderful winter storage crop is somewhat key to our survival.  Thinking of it that way makes me feel a certain kinship to our winter root vegetable regulars: potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, onions, carrots, parsnips, radish,  and celeriac.

So, what do you do with root vegetables?  Well, obviously, lots of things: bake, saute, steam, and boil. Here’s a trusty root vegetable recipe that we enjoyed last night:

Dinner: What we had for dinner last night was one of my ‘look forward to eating meals’ of the winter months.  It is something inspired from a recipe we tried last year (or the year before…), found here.  I wanted to eat it back in September, but had to wait for the root vegetables to come around.  It utilizes root vegetables really well- you can use a lot of them in many combinations to make a really hearty, but fresh dish.

Pasta with Root Vegetables and Lemon Zest

The earthiness of sautéed root vegetables (in this case: carrot, turnip, celeriac, beet, and parsnip) combined with the vibrance of nutmeg and lemon zest and the bold flavor of a parmesan-like cheese make this a dynamic dish, and exquisite use of winter veggies.  It also can be very local.  We were able to make this using only local ingredients, with exception of nutmeg and lemon zest (which required me using one of our week’s slots for organic lemon).

Fresh Nutmeg Pasta with Sautéed Root Vegetables and Lemon Zest: (serves 4)

Fresh Nutmeg Pasta:

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup rye flour
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • pepper

Freshly ground red winter wheat flour with salt, nutmeg, and pepper.

  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Add egg and olive oil  and mix to form a firm and slightly sticky dough.
  3. Add more flour if needed to make let sticky, add a little water to make less dry.
  4. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
  5. Let rest, covered with a damp towel for 20 minutes.
  6. For shaping pasta, you can roll it out and cut it, you can use a pasta cutter (we use a hand cranked pasta roller/cutter).
  7. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add the pasta.
  8. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes.
  9. Drain and let set until adding it to the saute.

Homemade fresh pasta before boiling.

Root Vegetable Saute:

You can use any combination of carrot, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, beet (only golden unless you want the whole dish to be pink), and I’d recommend you use celeriac, or at least celery if you don’t have celeriac. Here is the vegetable combination I used last night:

  • 1 golden beet
  • 1 small celeriac (also called celery root)
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 1 medium turnip
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of lemon zest
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup of pasta water
  • salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup of parmesan cheese, shredded(4 oz)

Sautéed vegetables with the pasta added.

  1. Chop vegetables into thin strips, about 2-3 inches long.  This doesn’t have to be perfect, and you could probably get away with just chopping them, but I will say that the thinner shape is nice for texture and cooking time.
  2. Saute root vegetables in the 1tbsp of olive oil in a large pan/pot for about 8 minutes.
  3. Mince or just garlic press the garlic into the root vegetables, stir well.
  4. Add 1 cup of water, stir.
  5. Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the vegetables are ‘done’ (cooked to your desired firmness).
  6. Once the pasta is done, add the pasta, pasta water, and zest.
  7. Mix well.
  8. Also salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve with parmesan cheese- or whatever bold hard italian style cheese you can find (we used Narragansett Creamery‘s Atwell’s Gold).

The finished pasta with the cheese mixed in. Delish!

You might not want to make your own fresh pasta, which is fine.  The fact that I freshly ground my hard red winter wheat (from our Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA) minutes before mixing my pasta dough together makes me a little bit of a freak in the grand scheme of kitchens in the country.  If you use pre-made pasta, just add the 1/4 tsp of nutmeg to the dish and mix well.

Well, that was a delicious local meal, and was well enjoyed.  For dessert, Theresa and I went our separate ways.  I wanted homemade granola with peanut butter and Taza Chocolate.  That was a little too ‘hippy’ for Theresa; she made well-buttered popcorn with salt and sugar sprinkled on top.

Home made oat and almond granola with peanut butter and Taza's Baking Chocolate pieces.

It was a lovely wintery evening for enjoying the bounty of the season.

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