Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Featured Item—Parsnips

It may look similar to a carrot and comes from the carrot family, but parsnips are quite a different vegetable.Because they have no beta-carotene, parsnips are white.However, they are still quite healthful, boasting impressive levels of dietary fiber, potassium, folic acid, vitamin C and calcium.It is argued that they are actually sweeter than carrots, but they are definitely more fibrous and can be more bitter.Before the popularization of potatoes they were a staple starch, and during the Middle Ages they were more favored than carrots.Parsnips were introduced to America by the early European settlers, and while never quite as popular in the US as in other countries, they are becoming a favorite of farm devotees today.

Parsnips are best harvested in late fall, after the first frost, at which time the starches are turned into sugars, making the vegetable taste “sweet”.Indeed, the caramelized nutty sweetness of roasted parsnips is irresistible.Young parsnips don’t even need peeling and are considered sweet enough to eat raw, especially grated into salads or used as a crudité vegetable.However, if parsnips have been allowed to grow too big or remain too long in storage, they tend to get woodier and bitter.Thus, it is recommended that larger parsnips be peeled and that the “woody” core in the middle be cut out before preparing.Typically, you can tell once you make your first cut if the core seems overly tough and in need of being extracted.If you are unsure, taste the raw parsnip before continuing with your cooking preparation.

In the culinary world parsnips are often linked to carrots and potatoes.Cooking sources often recommend substituting parsnips for carrots or potatoes in soup, stews, roasts, mashes, and purees.Parsnips are also quite similar to turnips in texture and are easily interchangeable with turnips in recipes.However, it is important to keep in mind that they can have more of a bitter edge than carrots, potatoes or turnips, especially if older or if a woody core is not removed.Thus it helps to consider other elements in a dish before deciding to add parsnips. Avoid using them in dishes with predominantly bitter notes.

As mentioned above, parsnips can be eaten raw.However, they are most often cooked in this country and lend themselves to almost any cooking method.Boiling or steaming is a popular technique, especially for making mashes or purees.Parsnips mash especially well with potatoes, although they are good just as a mash on their own.

Parsnips are also tasty pureed in soups.Parsnip and apple is a popular combination for pureed soup.Potatoes, leeks, sweet potatoes, and squash would also combine well with parsnips in this method.See below for a pureed parsnip and potato soup recipe.

Because of their natural sweetness, parsnips are particularly good in preparations that introduce a complementary sweet note such as apples, apple cider, orange juice, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, etc.See below for a cream-less gratin recipe that uses sweet potatoes, parsnips, apple and apple cider.

Parsnips are wonderful roasted, either on their own or with other root vegetables.As mentioned above, roasted parsnips develop a great caramelized sweetness without adding anything other than a bit of oil, salt and pepper.

I understand that fried and “oven fried” parsnips are also quite good, although I have personally never tried them.The November 2010 issue of Food and Wine Magazine includes a unique recipe for “parsnip bacon” which is thin peelings of parsnip coated in oil, seasoned with a smoked salt, and baked until crisp.It sounds delicious doesn’t it!

Surprisingly, parsnips actually taste great in baked goods!They are a fun substitute or addition to sweet breads, muffins, or cakes that call for carrots.See below for an interesting recipe for Apple Parsnip Quick Bread.

So even if you think you hate parsnips, try some new ways of making them, or be mindful of cutting out bitter cores and/or avoiding other bitter flavors in the dish.Who knows, parsnips might just become a favorite in your house!

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Parsnip Potato Soup with Mushroom Pancetta Hash      Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

Soup

– 1 ½ cups peeled and chopped parsnips, about 4-5

– 3 peeled medium potatoes, chopped

– 5 cloves garlic, peeled

– 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

– 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided

– 1 teaspoon salt, (if using salt free home-made broth)

– ¼ teaspoon white pepper

– 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

– 1/4 cup fat free or regular half and half, or more to thin soup

Mushroom Pancetta Hash

– 2 teaspoons olive oil

– 1 ½ ounces Lean Pancetta, chopped into 1/4″ pieces

– 8 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, chopped into 1/4″ pieces

– 1 or two peeled parsnips, cored if necessary, cut into 1/4″ pieces

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

METHOD:

1.In a medium pot, place potatoes, 1 1/2 cups chopped parsnips, and 5 garlic cloves.Pour enough broth to just cover vegetables.Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes.Puree in a blender until smooth.

2.Pour soup back into rinsed pot.Add vinegar and half and half and heat just until hot throughout.If soup is too thick, thin with broth or half and half.Also add salt if necessary.

3.Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium size skillet over medium heat.Add pancetta and cook until it has rendered its fat and is crisp.If a lot of fat is left in the pan, spoon some out to keep the total to about 2 teaspoons.Add mushrooms, chopped parsnip, garlic, and 1 teaspoon thyme to pancetta.Sauté on medium heat until parsnips are tender, the mushrooms have released their liquid, and the liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes.

4.Ladle hot soup into shallow bowls.Add about 1/4 cup hash in middle of soup and serve.

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Sweet Potato, Parsnip, and Apple “Gratin”     serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

– 4-5 large peeled parsnips

– 1 large peeled sweet potato

– 1 large peeled baking apple like Jonah Gold

– 2 shallots, minced

– 1 tablespoon olive oil

– 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

– ½ cup white wine

– ½ cup apple cider

– ¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth

– ½ cup Grated Asiago cheese, heaping

-1/3 cup chopped Pecans

METHOD:

1.Preheat oven to 375.Spray an 8 X 8 glass baking dish with cooking spray or brush with olive oil.

2.Using a mandoline or the slicing blade of a food processor, thinly slice sweet potato, parsnips, and apple (cut apple around core or avoid core with mandoline)(some parsnip pieces will be very small which is fine).Halve larger sweet potato and apple slices.

3.In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat until hot.Add shallots and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.

4.Add wine, cider, broth and thyme to shallots and bring to a boil. Add sweet potato, parsnip and apple pieces and stir well to mix up vegetables and coat with the wine mixture.Season well with salt and pepper and stir again to coat.Remove from heat.

5.Lay half the vegetable pieces in the prepared dish, allowing pieces to overlap haphazardly.Sprinkle with half the cheese.Lay remaining vegetables over the cheese, spreading evenly and smoothing top.Top with remaining cheese.

6.Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.Top with pecans and bake until vegetables are very tender, much of the liquid has evaporated and the top is light golden, about 10-15 minutes longer (for a total of about 1 hour).Allow gratin to sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

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This quick bread is not too sweet and is healthier than most quick bread recipes as it is reduced-fat and contains no butter.

Apple Parsnip Quick Bread       makes 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS:

– 2 cups white whole wheat flour (see note below)

– 2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

– 1 teaspoon apple pie or pumpkin spice

– ½teaspoon salt

– ½cup plain low fat yogurt

– 1/3 cup vegetable oil

– ¼cup unsweetened applesauce

– 1/3cup honey

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 2 eggs, lightly beaten

– 1 cup peeled and grated parsnips

– 1 peeled, cored and grated apple

– ½cup raisins

– ½cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

METHOD:

1.Preheat oven to 325.Spray a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan with baking spray.

2.In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.

3.In a small bowl whisk yogurt, vegetable oil, applesauce, honey, vanilla extract, parsnips, and apple until well combined.Add eggs and whisk just until incorporated.Stir egg mixture into flour mixture until just combined.Fold in raisins and nuts.

4.Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth top.Bake for 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean.Because of the honey in the recipe, the loaf tends to brown quickly.Do not be fooled, it will need at least 45 minutes and typically more to bake through.Also, if top gets too brown, gently lay a piece of foil on top to prevent further browning.

NOTES:

King Arthur Flour’s White Whole Wheat Flour is sold in supermarkets.It is a whole grain flour ground from a variety of wheat that yields a lighter baking product than regular whole wheat flour, although both kinds are nutritionally similar.If you opt to use regular whole wheat flour, use half whole wheat and half regular flour.

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My husband loves these latkes and he doesn’t even realize they have parsnip in them.I make them gluten free using garbanzo bean flour, but you can use regular flour if you wish.I most often use larger parsnips for this recipe and avoid the core, as I find that the core doesn’t grate very well.

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Latkes       Makes 6

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 cup peeled grated parsnips, see note below

– 2 cups peeled grated sweet potato

– 1/3 cup grated onion, pulp only, leave onion juice behind

– 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

– 1/4 cup garbanzo bean or all purpose flour

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1 heaping teaspoon minced fresh sage

– canola oil

METHOD:

1. Shred parsnips lengthwise on a box grater, turning parsnip around as you go to avoid shredding the core (which is fibrous and can be bitter.Save core for veggie broth).Place 1 cup grated parsnip in a medium bowl.Add grated sweet potato, onion, egg, flour, salt and sage to bowl and mix well to blend.

2. In a 10-12 inch skillet, heat about 1/8-1/4 inch canola oil over medium heat until hot.Test oil temperature by adding a tiny bit of latke mixture.It should sizzle lightly.Pat latke mixture into 6 patties (about 1/3 cup each), pressing down to make them fairly thin (the thinner they are the crisper and more likely they are to be cooked through).Add gently to skillet.Cook for 5-8 minutes on one side, until deep brown but not burned.Mixture should not brown too quickly or it will not cook all the way through.Adjust temperature as needed.Turn latkes and continue to cook until deep brown on second side, about 5-7 minutes.Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and pat to remove excess oil.Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

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This recipe is soooo delicious.It was highly adapted from Indian Cooking without Fat by Mridula Baljekar.Like most authentic Indian recipes it is a bit involved but it becomes manageable if you do it in stages.The sauce is so creamy, fragrant and decadent, you won’t believe you aren’t eating cream.I like to serve it with a simple grilled or roasted salmon sprinkled with salt and curry powder.

Fall Vegetable Korma      serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

For Korma Sauce

– 3/4 cup ultra-filtrated skim (like Simply Smart brand) or regular 2% milk

– 1 large onion, thinly sliced

– 1/4 cup raw cashews

– 2 cardamom pods

– 1/2 cinnamon stick

– 1 tablespoon grated ginger

– 1 teaspoon grated garlic

– 1 tablespoon ground coriander

For vegetables

– 1 cup chopped peeled parsnips, cut into 1/2″ pieces

– 2 cups cauliflower florets

– 1 cup trimmed green beans or broccoli florets, cut into 1/2″ pieces

– 3 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash, cut into 1/2″ pieces

– 2 teaspoons peanut or canola oil

– 1 large onion, chopped

– 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed

– 1 cup vegetable broth

METHOD:

1. For Korma Sauce:In a small saucepan, place milk, sliced onion, cashews, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ginger and garlic.Bring to a boil.Reduce heat to low and simmer until onion is very tender, about 10 minutes.Remove cardamom pods and cinnamon stick.Place remaining mixture in a blender and blend until completely smooth.(Can be made ahead.Place in airtight container and chill until ready to continue with recipe).

2. For Vegetables:Steam parsnips for about 5 minutes.Add cauliflower florets and steam until almost tender, about 5 more minutes.Add green beans and steam until all vegetables are tender, another 3 minutes.Remove vegetables to a large bowl, but keep water simmering.Place butternut squash in steamer and steam until just tender but not mushy (you want the squash to continue to hold its shape).Place squash in bowl with rest of vegetables. (Vegetables can be steamed ahead.Place in airtight container and chill until ready to continue with recipe).

3. In a large skillet, heat peanut oil over medium-low heat until hot.Add chopped onion and caraway, and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is tender (add tablespoons of water or broth if needed to keep onion from browning before it gets tender).Add 1 cup vegetable broth and milk-onion korma mixture and stir until combined.Bring to a simmer and reduce heat.Simmer until thick, about 4-5 minutes.Add steamed vegetables and turn gently with a spatula to mix well without breaking up the squash.Simmer, stirring very gently on occasion, until vegetables are heated through, about 5 minutes.

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