Add some zing to your meals this winter with root vegetables

Recipes include: Sweet Potato and Apple Pie, Root Vegetable Chili and Roasted Root-Vegetable Medley

Surely root vegetables have finally gotten their day in the sun. When things are looking pretty bleak at your local grocery store (especially during winter months), root vegetables can work culinary magic. 

How many times have you passed them by without a thought of how healthy and delicious they are? Patronize your winter’s farmers’ market, and you will see a wonderful array of root vegetables: parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips, beets, potatoes, carrots, radishes, rutabaga, onions and celery root. These workhorses of the kitchen are low in fat and high in nutrients; are available all year long; and store well. If you do not have a root cellar (as many did years ago when vegetables were stored in a cool, dark place covered in dirt), the best place to store the most common of root vegetables—such as onions—is in an open basket in a dark, dry place where air can circulate around them. They will last longer this way, instead of in the refrigerator where moisture can cause mold. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are best stored in a dark, cool, dry spot.
Carrots, beets, parsnips and turnips can be refrigerated.

Root vegetables are so versatile. From soups to stews to roasting, the distinctive flavors of these vegetables come out in surprising ways. One of my favorite methods for cooking most root vegetables is roasting, which caramelizes their sugars to create a sweeter taste and creamier texture. Some cooks I know also like to use these vegetables uncooked, as in grated beets for raw beet salad.

There are thought to be many health benefits with including root vegetables in your diet. Their high levels of antioxidants may help eliminate free radicals and toxins. Carrots, sweet potatoes and turnips have high amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which may keep the blood clean as well as help to prevent high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke.

So don’t let winter cooking get you down when root vegetables can save the day.

Sweet Potato and Apple Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

Soothing and delicious are just a couple of the attributes of this down-home sweet potato pie that no canned pumpkin pie can match.

The addition of grated apple gives it an extra tasty surprise.

2 eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
11/4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1 Cortland apple, peeled and grated
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
11/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
Whipped cream, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat the eggs in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients (excluding the pie shell and whipped cream) in order given and beat until the mixture is smooth.

2. Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Bake for 35–40 minutes or until the filling has set.

3. Cool, then serve cut into wedges with whipped cream.

Root Vegetable Chili

Serves 4

Here is a hearty, root-vegetable chili that gets better over time, so make it a day or two ahead.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 small turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup tomato juice
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and well rinsed
3 tablespoons chopped scallions, for garnish
2/3 cup grated, sharp cheddar cheese, for garnish

1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion. When the onion has wilted, add the garlic, red pepper, paprika, chili powder and cumin. Cook over medium heat until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and blend well. Add the carrots, turnips and potatoes, and coat well.

2. Combine the tomato juice and broth, and pour over the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium low and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the beans, and continue cooking for about 25–30 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

4. Serve in bowls garnished with the scallions and grated cheese.

Roasted Root-Vegetable Medley   

Serves 4–6

This jewel of a roasted-vegetable medley is the perfect side for a winter’s meal.

6 red or yellow beets, trimmed and washed
3 parsnips, trimmed and peeled
3 large carrots, trimmed and peeled
2 red onions, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons minced, fresh parsley
Juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the beets, parsnips and carrots into 1½-inch chunks and place them in a large bowl. Add the onions and garlic.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients and pour over the vegetables to evenly coat them.

3. Transfer the vegetables to a lightly oiled, nonstick baking sheet and roast, turning the vegetables once during the cooking, time (for about 45 minutes or until fork-tender).

Categories: Food & Recipes