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The Beauty of Root Vegetables

Roasted to sweet, caramelized sublimity or left raw in a crunchy and refreshing salad, humble root veggies take a star turn.

November/December 2020 Issue
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Root vegetables are odd and yet familiar at the same time. The popular ones—potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, radishes—are eaten with abandon. Roasted, fried, steamed, braised, and crunched on in classic salads. But it is the big family of root vegetables, including parsnips, celery root, beets, parsley root, burdock root, turnips, rutabagas, and more, that get a short shrift. They deserve to be in the spotlight, especially in fall when, after the first frost, the starches in the roots turn to sugar, making varieties such as parsnips and celery root especially delicious. The beauty of root vegetables is their versatility—pairing well with big, bold global flavors. In addition, they are relatively cheap, store well, and are nutritious.

For this selection of recipes, celery root is featured raw in a crunchy salad, tossed with a lively mustard vinaigrette, and punctuated with celery, capers, and herbs. But the celery root could easily replace the potatoes in the recipe for sheet-pan roasted root vegetables.

Sweet potatoes are given the classic treatment of being mashed, but the flavor profile is changed. Instead of adding brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, the sweet potatoes get an umami-nuanced flavor with the addition of shiro miso.

Consider sauces as a terrific addition to simply roasted root vegetables. The almond-herb sauce paired with roasted carrots and parsnips could be drizzled over roasted potatoes, rutabagas, beets, or grilled salmon or cod. I make a double batch and refrigerate for up to a week.

Sheet-pan roasted root vegetables have many possibilities—replace the potatoes with celery root or rutabagas, skip the Brussels sprouts, and add chunks of sweet potatoes. Or, during the last 15 minutes of roasting, scatter olive-oil-rubbed kale leaves over the roots and stir in. That’s the beauty of roots: They are versatile—something our grandparents knew all along.


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