Tuesday, March 09, 2010


First fennel, then sweet potatoes, and now parsnips? 2010 has thus far apparently been The Year of New Vegetables , or at least The Year When I Finally Discover Great Recipes That Make Me Fall in Love with New Vegetables. I’d cooked with parsnips a few times before (once in a soup, and occasionally in various roasted-vegetable mixtures), but the results were never particularly blogworthy. Plus, for some reason I have a hard time obtaining parsnips—I never see them at the farmers’ market, and while it’s not that surprising that Trader Joe’s doesn’t have them, I’m confused that I can’t seem to find them at my local Vons either (which is a standard not-that-fancy chain grocery store, but does carry most other produce items I can think of, including quail eggs [I always wonder why those aren’t in the egg section]). So I have to go to Whole Foods, which is not on my usual grocery-getting rotation (the only things I regularly buy there are bulk oatmeal, ground pork, and Leinenkugel's beer), and where they are not particularly cheap for such a humble vegetable. Whither the parsnip in Pasadena?

This recipe from Jack Bishop’s indispensible Vegetables Every Day sounded like it was worth the special trip to Whole Foods, and an excellent way to give parsnips a chance. Roasting is pretty much always one of the best ways to broach a new vegetable, and parsnips roast up particularly well, sweet and caramelized, reminiscent of oven-baked sweet potato fries (one of my recent obsessions, although I haven’t posted a recipe yet because I’ve been playing with different versions). There are a million variations on roasted parsnips available on the Internets, but I’m so glad I tried Bishop’s, because the simple rosemary-balsamic glaze takes these to another level. Two tablespoons sounded like an awful lot of vinegar to be soaking my already-nice-looking roasted parsnips with, but sure enough, after a few more minutes in the oven, the vinegar magically cooked down into a sticky, subtle glaze that made them taste even better--an addictive treat of a side dish I'm already yearning to eat again.

The recipe is easy-peasy, although I did a poor job of cutting my parsnips into uniform-sized pieces, and I’m guessing that overall I could have done bigger ones, because they didn’t need anywhere near 40 minutes to get browned and tender (I’m guessing maybe 25 minutes?) and a few neared the verge of charred. So just keep an eye on them while they’re roasting and trust your senses over the recipe; when they look good to you, take them out.

2 pounds parsnips
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Peel the parsnips. If they are quite small, you can simply cut them into 1½-inch chunks. Larger parsnips will probably have a tough woody core that needs to be removed. (You can see it when you cut open the parsnips. To remove the core, quarter the parsnips lengthwise and then use a paring knife to shave off the portion of the core that is attached to each quarter.) Cut the cored parsnips into 1½-inch chunks.

3. Toss the parsnips with the oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast, turning once, until golden brown, about 40 minutes.

4. Combine the vinegar and rosemary in a small bowl. Drizzle the mixture over the roasted parsnips on the baking sheet and toss to coat. Continue to roast until parsnips are glazed, about 3 minutes.

Serves: 4 (or possibly fewer; I made an approximately 1.5-sized version of the recipe and the two of us ate it all in one sitting)
Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Leftover potential: Unknown; I imagine they would lose some of their crispness but still taste quite nice

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