When the trees stand skeletal against the sky, blustery winds chill your bones, and that extra little nip in the air is upon us, I know it’s time to break out my cold weather arsenal. I’m not just talking about quilts and blankets or the trunk full of sweaters, scarves and mittens. No, what I’m referring to are the autumn vegetables that are a must for the nourishing, comforting recipes of the season. Roots.
While you may not think of roots as a mainstay of our diets, we eat them all the time. Carrots and potatoes, anyone? But there is a world of roots far beyond those, offering us a range of flavors and nutrients. Plus, they store well, are incredibly easy to cook and, with their creamy starches, are tremendously satisfying. Here are some of my favorite root vegetables to keep in the kitchen, especially during the cooler months:
Favorite Roots: Sweet Potatoes
One of the biggest crowd pleasers, sweet potatoes are a mainstay in my cold-weather kitchen. I like to roast a big batch of them by simply piercing them with a paring knife and placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet (to catch any syrupy drips) in a 350°F oven until they yield easily to a knife, about 45-60 minutes. We cube them and keep them on hand for a quick snack, a lunch box addition, a topping for beans and salads, and even an unexpected addition to smoothies.
They also make a delicious spiced mash with cinnamon, ginger and a touch of black pepper. Try the Especially Good Sweet Potatoes too; I love it with coconut milk for some extra tropical flavor. Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Pears is another beautiful way yet elegant way to enjoy this root vegetable and is a perfect addition to any holiday table.
Similarly shaped, and usually found near each other in the produce department, rutabagas and turnips are not to be ignored. Rutabagas tend to have a pale orange-hued flesh and a somewhat purple tinge to their peel, while turnips are usually a creamy white color, with purple coloring on their skin as well. Both have a mild flavor with the rutabaga being a little sweeter than the slightly spicy turnip.
When buying either, look for smooth, firm skins. If the green tops are attached, even better! I like my rutabagas and turnips roasted, stewed, boiled and mashed, and pureed into creamy soups. They are also great in the Winter Vegetable Soup.
Skinny Roots: Parsnips & Carrots
Parsnips are often overlooked next to their vibrantly colored and sweeter cousins — carrots. But with their versatility and pleasant nutty flavor, they should not be missed. Add them with other root vegetables to stews and soups, or even pair them with potatoes for a fresh take on classic mashed potatoes.
Also be sure to try them in one of these recipes featuring a medley of roots: Roasted Root Vegetables and Caramelized Root Vegetables. Even carrots could use some new and fresh ways to show up on your table. Try them in as a dip or spread in Carrot Cashew Spread or pureed and silky in Carrot Ginger Soup.
How do you get your roots on the table?