Carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes can be purchased year-round. Parsnips accumulate more starch than carrots, and the starch is converted to sugars when exposed to cold temperatures, making this root vegetable quite sweet. Be sure to remove greens from carrots; parsnips should be firm and not flabby and, along with rutabagas, can keep up to two weeks when stored in a plastic bag in a refrigerator drawer. Whether we call sweet potatoes, “sweet potatoes” or “yams,” they are a delectable sweet-fleshed tuber. Sweet potatoes don’t love the cold, so keep them in a basket in a cool part of the kitchen and plan to use them within a week of purchase. (I keep my potatoes in a small, usually dark, hallway off the kitchen.)
Rutabaga and turnip can be used interchangeably. Rutabaga is a cross between the turnip and cabbage species; and, as it is sweeter and starchier than turnip, I prefer to use it in the purée below.
WINTER ROOT VEGETABLE ROAST
This colorful vegetable roast can be prepared ahead then baked for a tasty mid-winter side dish.
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 to 2/3 pound parsnips, peeled
1 bunch carrots (about 5), peeled
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 to 2 bay leaves
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pour oil into an oven to table 2-quart baking dish and tilt the dish to distribute the oil. Toss the garlic into the oil. Trim vegetables and cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Place the vegetables over the garlic in baking dish and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the thyme and bay leaves and toss the ingredients to mix. Can be prepared several hours ahead to this point, then baked when ready to serve.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Bake vegetable roast for 45 to 50 minutes until vegetables are tender. Check for doneness and serve.
Rutabagas are larger than turnips and are distinguished by an ochre-colored, swollen neck.
1 1/2 pounds rutabaga, trimmed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons cream
freshly ground black pepper
Peel rutabaga and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place in a pot of cold water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt to taste, adjust heat to medium and cook at a brisk simmer with lid ajar, until tender, about 16 to 18 minutes. Test for doneness with the tip of a paring knife and drain.
Place the vegetable in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel knife and process to a coarse purée. Add butter, sugar, thyme, cream, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Process mixture to a fine purée, pushing down sides with a rubber spatula as necessary. Taste to adjust seasoning. The purée can be prepared ahead to this point and refrigerated in a suitable container. To reheat, keep warm in a water bath, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve or microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.