Chow Town

Don’t be a stranger to parsnips, rutabagas, turnips

Turnips, parsnips and rutabaga
Turnips, parsnips and rutabaga Special to The Star

Often I visit restaurants solo. It’s my quirky way of keeping a pulse on trends by absorbing conversations of self-proclaimed foodies, hostess, chefs and servers.

My most recent encounter, at a rather trendy restaurant rooted in sustainability, I heard a question at an adjacent table I hear all the time.

“So what exactly is a parsnip? What do turnips do? Who eats rutabaga?”

With a slight curl of the sides of my mouth, I took another sip of my parsnip soup while my ears perked up.

While recalling various explanations of the vegetables from TV and other restaurants, they came to a conclusion. These lovely ladies had no idea what the ancient root veggies are about except the parsnip looks like a white carrot. They got out their smartphones and Googled it.

What’s old is new again, so it is time to get familiar with our root veggies.

Yes, a parsnip looks like a white carrot and has a soft velvety texture when cooked. It is slightly sweet and can replace a potato any day if you ask me.

When raw, it is woody so it should be cooked by boiling, baking, frying or sautéing. If eating raw, thinly shave the vegetable and toss with a dressing to help break down the cell structure.

What does a turnip do? Well it adds a little pepperiness to anything. Think of it as a giant radish, but with a soft punch. Purple top turnips are the most familiar. The top is violet and it fades to a bright white bottom.

Eat them raw with a little butter and salt, tossed in a salad or of course butter braised. This technique brings out the sweetness of the turnip and softens the slight bitterness.

Who exactly eats rutabaga? Me, and more people should. It has an iris purple top which fades into a soft butter yellow. Sometimes to preserve this vegetable it is dipped in wax. It is the most pungent, bitter and sometimes overwhelming of the three, but it’s perfect with braised meats.

If you are new to the root vegetable world, congratulations, winter is the perfect time to get familiar. A favorite of my friends is a winter vegetable puree, using all three of these “new again” vegetables.

Root Vegetable Puree

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large rutabaga

4 parsnips

1 purple top turnip

1 large Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup whole unsalted butter

1/2 cup chevre goat cheese

1 cup heavy cream

1 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon oregano, fresh, chopped

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper, ground

Peel and medium dice the rutabaga, parsnips, turnip and apple. Bring them to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan with just enough water to cover the vegetables. Once they have reached a boil, turn the heat down and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain and reserve the liquid. Place the cooked vegetables in a blender with the butter, goat cheese, cream and lemon. Pulse until smooth.

Season with oregano, salt and pepper.

The Lighter Side Root Vegetable Puree

(For those of us with new years resolutions)

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large rutabaga

4 parsnips

1 purple top turnip

1 large Granny Smith apple

4 cups chicken broth plus water to fill the sauce pot

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lemon juiced

1 tablespoon oregano, fresh, chopped

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper, ground

Peel and medium dice the rutabaga, parsnip, turnip and apple. Bring them to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan with the chicken broth and just enough water to cover the vegetables. Once they have reached a boil, turn the heat down and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain and reserve the liquid. Place the cooked vegetables in a blender with the olive oil and lemon. Pulse until smooth. Season with oregano, salt and pepper.

Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother Nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.

  Comments