Thursday, October 9, 2008

Food of The week: Parsnips

All of a sudden the winds changed a little bit, air got crisper and I put on some bigger socks. It’s time for bundle up for fall. But, there is a silver lining, it's also time for autumn veggies.

This week, it’s carrots ugly albino cousin, the Parsnip. But hey! Don’t be a veggist (one who is discriminatory against certain vegetables just because of the color of their peel) the parsnip holds a sweet, nutty, sitting-by-the-fireside kind of flavor.

The ‘snip is a cold weather vegetable. It actually requires some freezing temperatures to convert its starchy compounds into sugar. Before the Idaho potato dominated the American scene this little guy kept the colonists and their cattle well fed all winter long. And their health might have been better for it. (not that the spud isn’t great because it IS!)

In one serving of parsnips you’ll get almost 7 grams of fiber, half your daily potassium and a healthy dose of vitamin C. We all know what fiber and Vitamin C contribute to a healthy body, but let me remind you about the third nutrient. Potassium keeps your muscles and nerves functioning properly and helps you store carbohydrates as fuel. Perfect! When you eat a parsnip, not only does the fibrous tuber give you carbs (the healthy kind) but potassium helps hang on to the power.

Now, I understand this is not a vegetable people are familiar with. So, let me break it down for you. Luckily, everything you do with a parsnip is easy. First, wash and peel the waxy skin. Then try cutting it into French fry shapes (avoiding the core) and roasting them in the oven with a little butter or olive oil (roast means setting your oven at 475 for about 20 minutes.) Salt, pepper and you’re good to go. Try cooking them like mashed potatoes, sautéing with carrots and rosemary or popping them in a soup. The sweetness of the ‘snip goes really well with a strongly flavored meat like sausage or seasoned pork loin.