Earthly Delights Root vegetables are gaining flavor in many gourmet kitchens

February 17, 1993|By Elaine Strong | Elaine Strong,Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph

Joining black beans, pasta and other folk foods, root vegetables have made their way into the kitchens of gourmet cooks.

In those kitchens, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, celery root and beets are being sauteed, scalloped and honey-baked, drizzled with lemon-dill butter, bathed in wine sauces and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts.

Gourmet cooks have accepted these earthy vegetables with very good reason. They're packed with nutrition, low in fat, high in fiber and robust in flavor.

Carrots are probably the most popular and versatile root vegetable.

Available year-round, carrots can be grated into salads, added to soups and stews, stir-fried, or baked into moist, spicy cakes. A single carrot provides a day's worth of vitamin A. Choose small- to medium-size, firm, bright orange carrots. Avoid limp, hairy carrots, which usually are tough and bitter.

Parsnips -- related to carrots -- are a winter vegetable with a sweet, nutty flavor when cooked. They are high in calcium and B vitamins. Choose smooth, firm, medium-size parsnips.

Turnips and rutabagas (also known as yellow turnips or swedes) add assertive flavor with a touch of sweetness to soups and casseroles. They contain small amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, and turnip greens are rich in vitamins C and A, calcium and magnesium.

Choose turnips that are small and firm, with smooth skin and fresh leaves intact, if possible. Choose rutabagas that are heavy for their size, with skins that are marked with purple, but relatively free of bruises and soft spots.

Celery root (also called celeriac) has an intense celery flavor that lends itself to cold salads and hot soups and stews. It contains B vitamins, iron and calcium. Choose celery roots that are smooth, firm and relatively free of knobs.

Beets peak in early spring and summer, but are available year-round. They are high in potassium, low in sodium and a good source of Vitamin C. Choose small, round beets with smooth, firm flesh, unmarred skins and springy tops.

The following recipes illustrate the root-vegetable/gourmet-cook connection.

9) Winter root vegetables with pine nuts Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 pound onions

1 pound carrots

1/2 pound parsnips

1/2 pound turnips

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons margarine

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 teaspoon minced garlic

6 wedges fresh lemon

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Trim and peel onions; cut into thick wedges. Pare, trim and cu carrots and parsnips into thick diagonal

slices. Scrub, trim and cube turnips.

Arrange onions, carrots, and turnips in vegetable steamer over boiling water, cover and steam 10 minutes. Add parsnips, cover and steam 16 minutes longer or until tender.

Meanwhile, saute pine nuts in margarine 1 minute. Add garlic; saute 1 minute longer. Set aside.

Turn steamed, drained vegetables into serving dish; add salt and pepper to taste; squeeze lemon juice over vegetables; sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley. Source: National Onion

Association.

Celery root and shrimp salad Makes 4 servings.

6 cups water

1 1/2 pounds medium-size fresh unpeeled shrimp

2 cups peeled, coarsely chopped celery root (about 1 1/4 pounds)

1 1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 teaspoons capers

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/4 teaspoon dried whole dillweed

2 tablespoons Chablis or other dry white wine

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 red leaf lettuce leaves

Bring 6 cups water to boil; add shrimp; cook 3-5 minutes. Drai well; rinse with cold water. Chill. Peel and devein shrimp.

Arrange celery root in vegetable steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam 8 minutes or until celery root is tender; drain.

Combine shrimp, celery root, and cherry tomatoes in a bowl; toss gently.

Combine shallot and next 9 ingredients in a bowl; stir with wire whisk until blended. Add to shrimp mixture and then toss gently. Serve on lettuce-lined places. Source: "Cooking Light."

Shredded beets with apple

Makes 4 servings.

1 pound fresh beets (without tops), peeled and shredded (3 cups)

1 large Granny Smith apple, pared and shredded (1 cup)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon leaf marjoram, crumbled

1 2/3 cups water

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Combine beets, apple, butter, salt, marjoram and water i medium-size saucepan. Bring to boil; lower heat; simmer, covered 20 minutes.

Uncover saucepan; increase heat to high; cook 7-8 minutes or until almost all liquid has evaporated and beets are tender. Stir in lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature. Source: "The Family Circle Cookbook."

Carrot and pineapple layer cake Makes 8 to 12 servings.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1 cup drained crushed pineapple

2 cups grated carrots (about 4 carrots)

RTC 1/8 cup chopped walnuts

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

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