No matter which way you slice, smash, broil or bake them, these seasonal vegetables sing
Parsnips In Butter
1 pound parsnips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Peel parsnips and trim ends. Cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. Cut the thick sections into quarter-inch slices, cut thin ends lengthwise and blot dry. Cook in butter on medium heat until browned on one side. Turn and brown on the other side. Serve garnished with chopped parsley. Makes 4 servings.
Carrots, parsnips, turnips and winter squash really come into their own this time of year. They show up in everything from appetizers to sweets. Each one is delicious on its own and all of them combined do wonders for a winter vegetable soup.
Carrots are one of the workhorses of the kitchen, essential for making stocks and soups, superb when stewed with beef, delicious as a puree, soup or salad, treasured as a vegetable and outrageously popular when transformed into a cake. The earliest carrots are thought to have been purple, yellow and red, while the familiar orange carrot was probably developed by the Dutch in the 17th century. Today, multicolored carrots are again making a comeback.
Parsnips, which belong to the same family as carrots, are incredibly sweet and delicious, but they appear less often on our tables, which is a shame. Apparently that was not always the case. Early Louisiana cookbooks contain recipes for parsnips prepared a variety of ways: boiled and served with a butter or a cream sauce, fried, smothered, mashed, turned into boulettes and made into fritters.
Turnips elicit strong feelings one way or the other, but those of us who love them have our favorite preparations. Some turnip varieties are so mild they can be eaten raw, but for cooking, I prefer those, such as the purple top, that have a more assertive flavor. I like to cook them with turnip greens and some kind of smoked meat. Turnips also are wonderful braised with duck.
There are many varieties of winter squash, all of them delicious. Butternut squash, which is widely available, is excellent in a variety of preparations — turned into a soup, roasted alone or with pork, included in a vegetable or meat stew or made into a pie.
The recipes this month include a carrot soup made from carrots that have been roasted with butter. In the process, their natural sugars caramelize and their flavor intensifies, creating a darker and more robust soup. For a vegetable dish, parsnips are first boiled in water, then sliced and browned in butter until their sugars caramelize and accentuate their natural sweetness. Turnips are cooked with their greens and ham hocks for a classically Southern one-pot meal. Finally, butternut squash is made into a pie sweetened with maple syrup and cradled in a cornmeal crust.
“When root vegetables were cultivated as much for livestock feed as human food, the parsnip was horse candy. Sweet, distinctive tasting, and nutritious, it had been standard garden fare in Europe since antiquity”— American Heritage Vegetables
Turnips, Turnip Greens And Smoked Ham Hocks
2 smoked ham hocks
4 cups water
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 head garlic
2 bunches turnip greens
2 large purple top turnips
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
hot pepper vinegar
In a large heavy pot or casserole, combine ham hocks, water and crushed red pepper. Separate garlic cloves and crush each clove with the side of a chef’s knife. Remove skins and add garlic cloves to pot. Bring pot to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for one hour.
Chop and wash turnip greens and add to the pot. Peel, quarter and slice turnips. Add to the pot. Cover and simmer until greens and turnips are tender, about 30-45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in large, shallow bowls with hot pepper vinegar. Makes 4 or more servings.
Roasted Carrot Soup
1 pound carrots
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F. Peel carrots and trim ends. Cut carrots in half, then cut into quarters lengthwise. Place carrots and butter on sheet pan and place in oven. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn carrots so they are covered with butter. After 15 minutes, turn carrots so they will caramelize on both sides. Roast for another 10 minutes, about 40 minutes total.
Transfer carrots and butter to a saucepan, add chicken stock and water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or process in batches in a stand blender. Reheat in saucepan and season to taste with Cajun/Creole seasoning. Makes 4 servings.
Butternut Squash Pie With Cornmeal Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup finely-ground cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons shortening
3-4 tablespoons ice-cold water
about 1¾ pounds peeled and cubed butternut squash, to yield 2 cups when mashed
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
Combine flour, cornmeal and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut butter into small cubes and add to bowl, along with shortening. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, work in the butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-sized lumps of butter throughout. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing it in with a fork, until dough begins to come together. Form dough into a ball and knead a few times, then place in the middle of a 9-inch pie pan. Flatten dough into a disk, then push it out with your fingers until the bottom and sides of pan, including the rim, are evenly covered. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Steam butternut squash until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer squash to a small mixing bowl, mash with a fork and measure 2 cups. Add mashed squash to a larger mixing bowl, along with maple syrup, and mix until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, salt and nutmeg and mix until light. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake on the bottom shelf of oven until set in the middle, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool before slicing. Makes 6-8 servings.