Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Know Your Roots

This is the season that root vegies  reign. They are a big part of the holiday menu, especially at Thanksgiving. However many home chefs don't know what to do with them, whether to roast or cream them or try them au gratin. Luckily, root vegetables are versatile for a wide variety of dishes.

What are root vegetables? It's pretty self explanatory, they're the edible roots, usually grown completely below ground. Some like radishes  and turnips have both edible bottoms and tops. The ones that we eat  the most during the colder weather are turnips, parsnips and carrots along with sweet potatoes and yams. A lot of people turn their noses up at the first two. Turnips have always received a bad rap probably because of their bitter flavor. The greens also have the same acrid taste however they're usually cooked with bacon fat to temper the taste. Turnips shouldn't be ignored though, because they're high in Vitamin C - important during the cold and flu season.Try the Scottish dish clapshot, a mix of mashed turnips and potatoes. Carrots are also added  for color.It's a  rich , creamy side thanks to the addition of whole cream and butter.For a less caloric dish  try them roasted. Parsnips are a milder version of turnips. Fry them in butter for a quick side or as a mash with carrots for a colorful spin on mashed veggies. The leftovers can be turned into parsnip puffs, by molding them into balls, then dipping them  in beaten egg first then in crumbs. Fry in olive oil for a crispy fun side or snack.

Sweet potatoes and yams are the stars of the holiday table. Many think they're one in the same however that's far from the truth. Yams are monocot, having one embryonic seed leaf while yams have two.The first is closely related to lilies and grasses while the other is a member of  the morning glory family.The confusion came about when soft sweet potatoes had to be distinguished from the hard ones and were renamed yams. One of the best ways to serve sweet potatoes is roasting them. This methods allows their earthy sweet taste to shine through. Add a sprinkling of sea salt and a pat of butter to them and that's it. You're done. If you want to jazz it up a bit serve it with maple butter, a blend of the syrup with softened butter or even margarine.Yams can be both a side and a dessert. A lot of traditionalists will probably make that uber sugary dish candied yams - which is fine if you want to smother their taste.A better idea is baked yams drizzled with melted butter and dusted with cinnamon or nutmeg.They can also be made into an African style stew as a side or even as a main dish for a tree trimming or Kwanza party. You can also use them in pies and even cupcakes for fun holiday treat.

Root vegetables are important part of holiday cooking. They add color and flavor to a harvest and holiday table. Get acquainted with them and enjoy their earthy flavors and versatility.

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