If you’re wondering how to eat unusual root veggies, ask a local chef. Many Tacoma and Olympia chefs use roots from local farms, and have some great advice for flavor combinations, cooking techniques and more.
“Up to a month is possible in a dry, cool location,” says Lisa Owen, owner and chef of Olympia’s The Mark. “Moisture is your enemy.” Beet and turnip greens will last a week in the fridge.
Skins on or off? “In general, skins are where the nutrients are,” says Owen. Scrub well, though, and peel if the skin’s very tough. And never forget – always cook potatoes. They’re a member of the nightshade family and can be toxic raw.
“Simply roasting them in a single layer with salt pepper and olive oil makes them magical,” says Danielle Kartes, owner and chef of Minoela bistro in Tacoma. “The possibilities are endless. (Roast them at) 425 degrees until they are caramelized with golden brown edges. Single layer is the key. I love to shave a good Parmesan on top when they are still piping hot out of the oven.” You can also serve at room temperature, says Kartes.
Another Kartes favorite is surrounding a chuck pot roast with onions, carrots, turnips, golden beets and Yukon Gold potatoes. “Garlic and rosemary add a warm, familiar feeling,” she says.
Matt Stickle at the Hotel Murano likes the crispy exterior and creamy interior root vegetables get when grilled, and adds that “parsnips, beets, celeriac and yams are great substitutes for potatoes.”
Kartes likes how tomatoes (even canned) will caramelize when added to roast root vegetables, especially rutabagas. Mushrooms, too, “can play a fantastic role the nutty woodsiness can be great with parsnips.” Or try citrus: Kartes adds a bit of lemon zest and zucchini to carrots or other mashed roots.
Stickle combines celeriac and apple in soup; beets and red onions in salad; celeriac, carrots and onions with lobster pot pie; and a beet carpaccio with goat cheese, greens and thyme vinaigrette.
Jicama is a Mexican root and works well with that cuisine – think chili, cilantro, cumin and lime.
Above all, says Owen, who sources in-season ingredients from local farms, use organic and fresh produce for best results.
Torta Verdura d’Inverno (Torte of Winter Vegetables)
Yield: Serves 4-6)
For the pie crust:
2-1/2 cups flour
1 cup cold butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
2 cups onion
2 cups rutabaga
2 cups carrot
12 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces thinly sliced and chopped prosciutto di Parma
6 finely chopped fresh sage leaves Freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt 2 eggs
Grated pecorino Romano
To make the basic pie crust: Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and stir briefly. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut cold butter into dry ingredients until it is in pea-size pieces that are slightly yellow. Mix in ice water just until dough comes together. Shape dough into a flat disk, cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes or overnight.
For the filling: Cut onion, rutabaga and carrot into small pieces and slice thinly. Steam vegetables approximately 20 minutes until they begin to soften and sweeten a little. Sauté onion until clear in olive oil, then add prosciutto.
Combine with vegetables and sauté quickly at high heat with a pinch of sea salt. Turn off heat. Add sage and freshly cracked black pepper. (This is a good moment to have a glass of wine and taste.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll out crust and line a tart pan.
Combine vegetables with gently whisked eggs and put mixture in lined tart pan. Brush a little butter on edge of the crust to help it brown. Bake torte 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven, top with a thin layer of grated pecorino Romano and cook 10 minutes more. Let the torte cool a little and serve still hot or at room temperature. Works as a savory antipasti before a dinner of game or red meat, or the next day as a breakfast or light lunch.
Source: Lisa Owen, The Mark restaurant, 407 Columbia St. S.W., Olympia, 360-754-4414, www.themarkolympia.com Winter Root Vegetable Chowder
3 large onions
2 bunches green onions
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 pound carrots, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
2 turnips, diced
2 potatoes, cut into small cubes
3 quarts vegetable stock
3/4 cup flour
3 bay leaves
3 teaspoons white pepper
2 teaspoons thyme
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2-3 cups heavy cream
Cheese or your choice and parsley for garnish
In a large stock pot over medium heat, add 14 cup butter, add onions with garlic and cover. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, turnips and potatoes. Add the flour and mix well, cooking the flour. Add stock and stir well. Add the bay leaves, pepper, thyme and lemon juice. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. When vegetables are tender, finish the soup with 2-3 cups cream. Garnish with cheese and parsley.
Source: William Mueller, Babblin’ Babs Bistro, 2724 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253-761-9099 Russian Cabbage Borscht
Yield: Serves 4-6
11/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
1 cup thinly sliced beets
4 cups water
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1-1/2 teaspoon salt to taste
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 sliced carrot
3 to 4 cups shredded cabbage
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dill
1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
1 cup tomato purée
Toppings: sour cream or yogurt, extra dill
Place potatoes, beets and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender. (20-30 minutes.)
Melt the butter in a kettle or Dutch oven. Add onion, caraway seeds and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent (8-10 minutes.)
Add celery, carrots and cabbage, plus 2 cups of the cooking water from the potatoes and beets. Cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender (8-10 minutes.)
Add the remaining ingredients (including all the cooking water), cover and simmer for at least 15 more minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot, topped with sour cream or yogurt and a light dusting of dill.
Source: The Moosewood Cookbook Daikon and Fennel Salad
Yield: Serves 4-6
1 cup daikon radish
1 cup bulb fennel
1 cup chopped parsley
14 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Thinly slice the daikon and fennel. Toss with the parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and grated Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Source: Territorial Seed Company Roasted Root Vegetables
Yield: Serves 6-8
1 small onion
1/2 fennel (sweet anise)
6 ounces small button mushrooms
34 cup balsamic vinegar
12 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dice onion and fennel, and cut carrots, parsnip, beets and turnips into bite-size pieces. (You may choose to add red potatoes to the mix or any root vegetable you would like.) Mix all ingredients with salt, pepper, balsamic and extra virgin olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet.
Roast vegetables at 375 degrees for 60 minutes. Take baking sheet out and mix vegetables halfway through cooking process. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of vegetables and roast until cheese is light brown. Place vegetables onto a nice platter and serve.
Source: Kristi Dohring, Paprika Catering, Olympia, 360-970-0689, www.paprikacatering.net Celeriac Apple Soup
Yield: Serves 6-8
1 small white onion, diced
3 celeriac roots, peeled and diced
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 cup white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
2 cups apple juice
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon walnut oil
Salt and pepper
In a large pot heat some olive oil and add onion. Sauté till tender.
Add diced celeriac and apples, sauté a little longer.
Deglaze with wine. Add stock and apple juice, and simmer till celeriac is tender. Purée the soup in a blender until smooth (remember hot liquid in a blender expands, so only fill halfway full, and repeat until all the soup is puréed.) Return soup to low heat and add cream, sherry, lemon juice and walnut oil. Stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If thicker consistency is desired, add a little cornstarch mixed to a slurry with cold water.
Garnish with a little diced apple and toasted walnuts and serve hot.
Source: Matt Stickle, Bite restaurant in the Hotel Murano, 1320 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253-238-8000 or www.hotelmuranotacoma.com