Rooting for Parsnips
The underestimated root vegetable that tastes fantastic.
Parsnips are like the redheaded stepchild of a blended family. A root vegetable whose family members include the ever-so-popular carrots, celery, fennel and parsley, parsnips seem to be lost in the wide world of vegetables, despite their amazing potential, versatility, and taste. Why are parsnips looked over? Are they not used enough among the masses for consumers to go out on a limb to try them? Is it because they look like carrots, but different, so people get confused? Are consumers just "parsnipety"? Okay, all jokes aside, the truth is parsnips are hearty, healthy, and are extremely adaptable.
Anyone familiar with carrots can feel comfortable using parsnips because they can be prepared pretty much the same way: mashed, roasted, boiled, sliced, shredded, etc. Readily available from the fall through the spring, parsnips fluctuate in color from pale yellow to off-white. The whiter the parsnips, the most tender they are, but it should be firm so stay away from parsnips with moist spots. And, as parsnips can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, they become sweeter with age. Often times, when parsnips are obtained from the farmer's market, or in a CSA basket, they come with green leafy tops. Green leafy tops will attract moisture, so be sure to remove them before storing the root vegetable.
Parsnips do well in whatever role it is placed; lead or the supporting actor, it won't let you down. Peel and shred it raw for added crunch to a salad. Add the shreds to a stir fry. Thickly slices or chunks add depth to soups or stews. Simple steaming can turn out a surprising sweet and delightful side dish in less than fifteen minutes. Looking for quick and easy seasoning ideas? Add wine to the water while steaming. Sprinkle some lemon, salt and pepper, or wintery flavors like nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon on the parsnips.
The recipe here is a wonderful and healthier alternative (only about 130 calories for a one 9"- inch 'snip) to starchy potato fries. The sweet flavor will surprise anyone's palate and keep everyone wanting more.
Roasted Parsnip Fries
3-4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into fine strips
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. garlic powder
salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven 350° F. Place the strips of parsnip into a bowl and toss with the oil. Start with 1 Tbsp. first, as a little oil goes a long way. Add the other seasonings and mix well. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden, turning at least once during the baking. Remove from oven and serve immediately.