It’s easy to stroll through the vegetable aisle on autopilot, picking out the same reliable, comfortable staples we know and love. But shaking up your routine can really pay off, introducing you to fantastic new flavors and textures that can broaden your approach to everything from salads and slaws to soups and mashes.
Interested? Here are five versatile, often overlooked vegetables to get you started.
If you’ve only had it raw in salads, you probably know Belgium endive as crunchy and pleasantly bitter. But cooking changes its character, turning it sweet and meltingly tender. as it is in this Roasted Belgian Endive, a terrific accompaniment to meats or grain-based dishes.
One of my very favorite things about endive is that just about anything you can spread on a cracker you can spoon inside a raw leaf; Shrimp Remoulade in Endive Leaves is a great example.
A softball-size, dusty-brown celery root (a.k.a. celeriac) is a bit daunting to look at, but you’ll be rewarded when you peel off its hoary skin with uniquely delicious ivory flesh. Cooked it makes a rich and silky puree, somewhat like potatoes but with an intriguingly rich and herbaceous flavor reminiscent of parsley.
It’s terrific mashed, or try this velvety Celery Root Soup.
And don’t miss it raw, where its tongue-tingling flavor elevates even the humblest ingredients, as in this Celery Root-Apple Slaw — a real winner.
These tasty tubers have no botanical relation to artichokes or connection to Jerusalem (they’re actually North American natives), which seems to be why they’re sometimes marketed as sunchokes. Although their flavor is deeper and nuttier, their culinary properties are akin to potatoes and they can be boiled, roasted or added to soups or stews similarly.
For a few recipes that highlight their uniquely earthy taste and firm texture, try Jerusalem Artichoke and Parmesan Tart, made with an unusual polenta crust, or hearty Split Pea Soup with Jerusalem Artichokes.
This juicy, lightly sweet root vegetable should get more press. It’s a bit otherworldly to look at, with a round, light-green bulb sprouting sturdy stalks with collard-like leaves directly from its perimeter.
Kohlrabi is most commonly used in soups or braises; Creamy Braised Turnips with Kohlrabi and Peas pairs it with turnips for a side dish that’s hearty enough to double as a main course.
But I find this vegetable is even more appealing raw, especially in the warmer months: Peel and slice it for a unique crudité similar to jicama in flavor, or add it to salads and slaws. This simple Kohlrabi and Radish Salad is a great introduction to its charms.
Rutabagas resemble their more common cousins, turnips, but have a thicker, waxier skin and distinctive golden flesh. You’ll find the flavor fresh, bracing and slightly sweet when shredded or julienned raw in salads, milder and nutty when braised or roasted.
Rutabagas are often mixed with other root vegetables, as in these recipes for Pureed Rutabagas and Parsnips with Brown Butter and Roasted Root Vegetables. But do try them cooked on their own as well, especially mashed with butter and herbs.
What off-beat produce to you like to cook with?