Root Cause: 7 New Ideas For Root Vegetables

Once upon a time, not that long ago, most Americans didn't care all that much about root vegetables. People ate carrots and potatoes (not technically a root, I know), and that was kind of it. Turnips, celery root, beets, rutabaga; they were mostly ignored or dismissed. That's not the case anymore. Vegetables of all types (even fringe ones) are much more celebrated than they used to be, and eating seasonally and locally, which requires consuming whatever it is that's grown around you, is now "a thing."

Still, even if we're cooking and eating a lot more root vegetables than we used to, that doesn't mean we don't get bored, or sometimes can't for the life of us figure out something reasonably exciting to do with them. This is particularly relevant for those of us who live in places with real winter (snow, cold, etc.) and like to shop at farmers markets, where root vegetables, squash, potatoes and other hearty produce are basically the only game in town until spring.

New (or new-ish) ideas can go a long way with root vegetables, since they're largely interchangeable. In that spirit, here are seven recipes that I really like, and that will hopefully expand your root repertoire into uncharted, or at least less common, territory. (Yes, I know squash and sweet potatoes aren't root vegetables, but they'll be around for the next few months, so I included them here, too). Will these seven dishes stave off boredom for the entire winter? Probably not, but they're a good start. Have a wonderful weekend.

—Mark


The pistachio pesto in this recipe calls for basil, which isn't in season anymore. If you want to skip the pesto, simply tossing this beet gnudi in a little brown butter with or without sage is a very delicious plan B.

ROASTED BEET GNUDI


An elegantly simple and wonderful way to prepare all kinds of vegetables. See the variations for many other ways to use the technique. Other vegetables you can use: anything hard and fibrous, really—jícama, parsnips, celery root, waxy potatoes—but not vegetables that easily become mushy, like starchy potatoes or sweet potatoes.

BRAISED AND GLAZED RADISHES


Call me a heretic, but I think that sweet potatoes deserve a better Thanksgiving companion than marshmallows. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that classic casserole, but it’s by no means the only option. Grating sweet potatoes opens up a whole new world of possibilities (plus, they cook in a flash). Here they’re simply stir-fried with brown butter and sage, an accompaniment every bit as “traditional” as marshmallows, and dare I say, even better.

STIR-FRIED SWEET POTATOES


Creamy soups are equally good without cream. Coconut milk, Southeast Asian flavors, and a little heat are an unbeatable combination in this pureed carrot soup.

CARROT-COCONUT SOUP


Suya spice is generally used as a dry seasoning mix for skewered meats (it is a blend of ground ginger, chili powder and roasted peanut powder, and can be found in African markets or grocery stores, and online, of course). I use the seasoning mix on roasted vegetables, mixed into a quick relish of ginger, scallions and limes, and spooned over everything. Be sure to get a healthy amount of caramelization on the roasted vegetables. It is important for flavour!

ROASTED VEGGIES WITH SUYA SPICE RELISH


Everyone needs a little attention now and then, but risotto isn’t as high maintenance as its reputation. When you make this, go for heartiness and satisfaction and choose the whole-grain barley, even though it takes longer to cook.

BARLEY RISOTTO WITH BEETS AND GREENS


If we're being truthful, this sweater weather recipe should really be called "winter squash and tomatoes with pasta," as the 2 pounds of squash far outweigh the ½ pound of penne it calls for. I think that's a good thing. Every single piece of pasta gets a generous coating of sauce, and there's even some left behind after the pasta is long gone. That's what bread is for.

PASTA WITH WINTER SQUASH AND TOMATOES


Talk To Me, Goose!

Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.