Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Musings on the Root Vegetable

This post was inspired by the recent New York Times article on root vegetables --

For as long as I can remember, carrots, potatoes, and onions have all been staples of my everyday diet. My favorite comfort food is a dish my mother called "Noodles and Onions," a plate of egg noodles topped with onions that had been sauteed in butter. The dish couldn't be simpler, but there is no greater pleasure. 

I love onions. I'll admit it. Every dish can be made better with onions. I add them to soups, stews, stir fry, tacos, meatloaf. I love vidalias, white onions, yellow onions, and red onions. Carrots, too, get incorporated into almost every roasted veggie medley I make (and I make a lot of them).

Until recently, my food life was satisfied with the typical American variety of veggies -- carrots, onion, potato, peas, green beans, lettuce, tomato, green pepper. Sometimes I forgot that this list was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the variety sustained by Mother Nature is incredibly abundant. My awakening to this reality was in no small part inspired by my husband's family. His parents tend a large vegetable garden in their back yard, complete with more exotic treats like eggplant, spaghetti squash, brussels sprouts, acorn squash, and swiss chard. When we were still dating, my husband took me to supper at his parents' house and I'll never forget the good laugh they all got when I exclaimed that the pasta tasted different and asked what type of seasoning his mother had added. That was my first experience with spaghetti squash. Until that day, I did not even know that it existed. When we planted our first garden, my husband asked me to add swiss chard, something that I had never even tasted, but that he had loved since he was a child.

As a result of these experiences, I've become so much more attuned to the variety of edibles found in the grocery store, at my local farmers' market, and in my own small garden plot. And yet, while I've had many good intentions to try new things, I've yet to attempt most of the varieties I've promised myself to try.

Well after reading about root veggies in the paper, I decided to pick up some parsnips and beets at the grocery store and give them a try.  I combined my new delights into a delicious roasted veggie mixture --

Purple Peruvian Potatoes

I sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and olive oil, then roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 min. I even remembered to poke holes in the potatoes, so none exploded this time!

Dinner that night was an enlightening experience. Guess what -- I've had parsnips before, I just didn't know it. But I would know that distinctive, sugary, taste anywhere. The minute I tasted them, I recalled that they were one of the potato chips in my favorite mixture of Terra Chips. Yum! I will totally add parsnips to the regular veggie rotation. My husband, on the other hand, was less than impressed. He called them "starchy," like a bad potato.

Beets were not quite the great experience I had hoped. They were sweet, and really not bad, but they just didn't do it for me. I think it was mainly the texture; they were a little too smooth and slippery for my liking. My husband flat out refused to even try one. Also, I purchased way too many of these veggies. Beets are apparently best eaten a few at a time, and I'm still working my way through the leftovers. Oh, plus, I think I've permanently dyed my thumb and index finger purple. Oops, guess I should have worn gloves when handling them!

Next up on my list is the turnip. I have a feeling my husband will be eating out that night.

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