It’s time to get back to our roots – root vegetables, that is. Root vegetables are healthy, versatile and delicious but too many of them get passed by in the market. Maybe it’s because some of them don’t look familiar or you’re just not sure what to do with them. Some people think root vegetables, like beets, taste too earthy. The truth is: if your root vegetables taste like the dirt from which they came, they are not being cooked right. When prepared correctly, root vegetables are packed with flavor and are delicious. What are root vegetables? Root veggies include beets, carrots, celery root, daikon, garlic, ginger, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, turmeric, turnips, yams and yucca.
Most root vegetables are in-season fall through spring, but you can buy them year-round. Choose hard, smooth vegetables that are free of bruises or spots. If they have greens (which are edible), they should be bright green and not wilted. Keep your root vegetables in a dark, cool place to keep them fresh longer. If you put them in the fridge, keep them in the crisper. Root vegetables can be cooked in every way you can think of – braised, steamed, grilled, braised, and roasted – you get the idea. Read The Best Ways to Chop and Prep Your Favorite Root Veggies and then check out these ideas for how to cook with these delicious root veggies.
1. Grilled Beets
Grilling beets brings out their earthy sweetness with an added smoky flavor. Their sugars become almost candied and charred. The method of grilling beets is almost identical to roasting them. To grill beets: Preheat the grill to medium-hot. Peel and slice the beets and place them on a piece of aluminum foil. Brush them with oil and season them with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil over the beets to make a packet. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Serve the beets warm or at room temperature. You can also add the grilled beets into dishes like this Grilled Beet Salad with Almonds and Dried Cranberries. Beets are also delicious roasted, fried, boiled and used in desserts. Check out 10 Ways to Cook with Beets for a lot more recipes and ideas.
2. Baked Kohlrabi
If you have never seen kohlrabi, it looks sort of like a cabbage whose outer leaves are at the ends of long stems. It’s also known as a “German turnip” and it tastes like a cross between cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli stems. It sounds like an identity crisis waiting to happen but the truth is that kohlrabi is a very versatile veggie. Any vegetable that can be turned into fries is a favorite of mine. To make Baked Kohlrabi Fries, peel two heads of kohlrabi and cut them into French fry-shaped sticks, 1/3 inch wide by 2 inches long. Toss the kohlrabi fries with olive oil and your favorite spices. I like ground cumin, garlic powder, chile powder, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt. Arrange the fries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes, flip the fries and bake for another 20 minutes until crisp and browned. Serve with your favorite condiment. For another recipe with kohlrabi, try making this Raw Carrot Sushi.
3. Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup
Sweet potatoes and carrots are sweet, earthy and both hold their shape in cooking. Try them together in a warm, silky smooth soup. My Curried Ginger Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup is spicy but balanced with the sweetness of both the sweet potatoes and the carrots. Saute one diced medium onion in a soup pot for 4 minutes or until translucent. Add four minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger, and 1 Tbs. curry powder and mix to combine. Add one large peeled and diced sweet potato and six large chopped carrots. Stir to combine and cook for 6 minutes until the veggies begin to soften. Add 4-6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, ½ tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Let the soup come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is silky smooth. If you want to add a creamy flavor, add 1 cup coconut milk and mix to combine. Heat the soup until it is warmed through. Taste for any seasoning adjustments and serve hot. For more awesome recipes, see Easy Root Vegetable Soup and Got Sweet Potatoes? Here are 10 Ways to Cook with Them.
4. Roasted Parsnips
I feel bad for parsnips. They look like carrots that have all the color drained out of them. Their looks are deceiving, however, as parsnips are nutty, spicy and starchy. Parsnips are delicious when roasted, and their spiciness is balanced by the sweetness brought out in the oven. Since they are slightly spicy, parsnips pair well with maple syrup, brown sugar and sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. To make Maple Roasted Parsnips: Cut 2 ½ lbs. of parsnips in half lengthwise and then cut them on the bias into 1-inch thick slices. Toss the parsnips with olive oil, salt, black pepper and 1/3 cup pure maple syrup. Arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the parsnips in a 425 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes or until just tender and golden brown. You can add parsnips anywhere you would usually use carrots, such as stews and soups like this Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup.
5. Sauteed Radishes
People usually eat radishes raw in salads but they are delicious cooked as well. I like to prepare them along with red potatoes for healthier side dishes. Usually, I slice both the red potatoes and the radishes thinly and pan-fry them alongside each other. They look identical and are delicious when combined. You can also pickle radishes in brine to make Indian Radish Pickle. My favorite way to eat radishes is to saute them until they are caramelized. To make my Caramelized Radishes: Trim 10-12 radishes and cut them into quarters (or halves if they are small). Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the radishes and cook for 5 minutes. You want the radishes to become tender but maintain their crunch. Add one clove minced garlic and 1 tsp. dried thyme to the radishes and toss. Standing back from the pan, add 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar and ½ tsp. sugar to the pan. Add salt and pepper according to your taste. Cook the radishes until they are golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
6. Mashed Rutabagas
Rutabagas look like big turnips and is often called a Swedish turnip. It’s a cross between a white turnip and cabbage. Rutabagas are slightly sweet and starchy, earthy and a bit tart. You can use rutabagas wherever you would use potatoes, sweet potatoes or turnips. To make Mashed Rutabagas: peel and chop one large or two small rutabagas Add them to a large saucepan and boil them in salted water until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain the rutabagas and return them to the pot. Mash with a potato masher. Add 1 Tbs. vegan butter, 1/3 cup non-dairy milk or cream, kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix well and garnish with fresh chopped chives. Shave them raw for salads, roast them, grill them, make fries with them, or slice them up for gratins.
7. Braised Turnips
Turnips may look like a strong vegetable but they actually have a mild flavor. They taste great roasted, mashed, sauteed or roasted. Here, they are braised with cabbage for an amazing side dish. Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large saute pan that has a lid. Add four peeled and diced turnips and 1 head of thinly sliced red cabbage to the pan. Cook 6 minutes until the cabbage wilts. Add 1 tsp. mustard powder, ½ tsp. dill weed and ½ tsp. black pepper. Stir in ¼ cup apple cider vinegar and 1 cup water. Cover the pan and let the veggies braise for 20 minutes or until the turnips are fork-tender. Season with kosher salt to taste. For more tasty turnips, try Turnip Ravioli and Turnips with Caramelized Onions and Toasted Lentils. Use the greens in Tempeh and Turnip Greens Soup.
8. Fried Yucca
Yucca, also known as cassava, is a Latin American and Caribbean staple. It is used the same ways as potatoes are in recipes, and is amazing when roasted or fried. When cooking with yucca, it is best to parboil it first so it becomes more tender and easier to work with. To make Fried Yucca, peel 1 ½ lbs. of yucca. Cut it into fry-shapes, about ½” thick. Add them to a saucepan of boiling water along with six garlic cloves, two fresh bay leaves, and 1 Tbs. salt. Reduce the heat to medium and allow the yucca to simmer for 25 minutes or until just fork-tender. Drain and let the yucca cool. In a deep skillet, heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Fry the yucca, a few pieces at a time, until they are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with salt and ground cumin. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
9. Raw Spicy Jicama Slaw
Jicama is a round root vegetable that is actually part of the legume family and unlike other root vegetables, it grows on vines rather than under the ground. Its texture is like a turnip but it tastes slightly sweet, similar to apples. Jicama has a tough skin but the flesh can be eaten raw as in this slaw. To make Spicy Jicama Slaw: in a large bowl, combine a half a head of shredded cabbage and one peeled and shredded head of jicama. Add two shredded carrots and two apples cut into thin matchsticks. Prepare the dressing by combining the zest and juice of three limes, 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbs. agave nectar, 2 tsp. chile powder, 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander and ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil. Whisk until combined well and season with salt and pepper. Toss the slaw with the dressing, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro or parsley and allow the slaw to sit for at least 20 minutes before serving. Be sure to also try these Raw Spicy Jicama Fries and Jicama Burgers with Cumin, Coriander, Dill and Lemon.
10. Roasted Root Vegetable Stew
On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it is traditional to eat sweet dishes. Tzimmes is a traditional sweet stew made with root vegetables and dried fruits. The veggies get cut into round coins to symbolize the wish for prosperity in the New Year.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss two large sweet potatoes, six large carrots, and four large parsnips that have been peeled and cut into coin or chunks with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the veggies, along with ½ lb. of pearl onions, in a single layer on the baking sheets. Roast for 25-30 minutes until the veggies are browned and tender, turning the pans around halfway through. While the veggies are roasting, make the sauce. Combine 1 cup of orange juice, 1/3 cup agave nectar, vegan honey or maple syrup, 1/3 cup chopped prunes, 1/3 cup raisins and 1/3 cup dried cranberries in a small saucepan. Add 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg and ¼ tsp. ground allspice and heat the sauce over medium-high heat until it comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat. When the vegetables are done roasting, transfer them to a large skillet. Add the sauce and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir the veggies often. A glaze will form over the veggies. Taste for any seasoning adjustments. Other recipes to try are this Roasted Root Vegetables on Quinoa with Yogurt Sauce and Mung Beans and Root Vegetable Curry.
Don’t these recipes all sound amazing? You always cook with onions, garlic and ginger but it’s time to give all the other root veggies a try. For even more ideas, read 10 Rocking Fall Recipes with Root Vegetables.
Lead Image Source: Easy Root Vegetable Soup