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whole food ~ well made

A Quick Intro to a New Root Veg–the Parsnip

If you’re veg curious, meet the parsnip–a sweet, starchy carrot cousin–that will bring new flavors to your holidays.

I wish everyone could experience the produce my friend, Deb, grows on her little acreage during our short growing season. The first time I tasted parsnip, it came from Deb’s garden.

She handed me a bag of pale, knobby, bedraggled roots. Their fat tops tapered to spindles, but she assured me they were something special. “I overwintered them so they’d be extra sweet,” she told me.

After I’d peeled, chopped them, I roasted them with olive oil and salt {the standard root vegetable treatment}. They were crazy sweet!

It’s likely that you’ve never tasted anything like a parsnip.

And they tasted like no other vegetable. The texture is a bit like celery root with a sweetness like ripe butternut squash and a flavor that’s hard to place like turnip.

The One-of-a-kind Parsnip

A member of the carrot family, parsnips take patience to grow. This is part of the reason I think that they’re not a common vegetable. Deb told me that she plants them in early spring and the seed takes a month to germinate.

And they’re ripe right now. So look for parsnip if you’re feeling like breaking out of the usual potato, green vegetable side dish routine. This uncommon root vegetable could be the one for you.

But not raw. They’re great roasted in equal portion with carrots. Or boil them and mash them into a mix with potatoes or puree them into a spiced parsnip soup.

Or, for a full introduction to this new-to-you root vegetable, try Deb’s parsnip gratin recipe. Enriched with cream and Swiss cheese, it is a stand-alone hearty main dish or a break-the-mold side dish.

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Parsnip-Potato Gratin

This recipe is from Deb Reth, a produce grower who gives the classic vegetable gratin a lift with sweet parsnips and Swiss cheese. Allow ample baking time for the parsnips and potatoes to become tender before browning. Serve this gratin as a vegetarian main dish or as a side for a turkey or ham dinner.

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine French
Keyword parsnip gratin
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • cups grated Swiss cheese
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled pastured
  • 3 cups heavy cream pastured
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 medium Russet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 6 medium parsnips, scrubbed, trimmed and thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

  2. Combine the breadcrumbs with ½ cup of the Swiss cheese and the butter in a bowl and set aside. Whisk the cream, salt and pepper in a measuring cup.

  3. Arrange half of the potatoes in the dish. Pour 1 cup of the cream over them and sprinkle with 1 cup of the Swiss cheese and 1 cup of the parmesan cheese. Arrange half of the parsnips over the cheese, then repeat the layers once more, ending with the last cup of cream. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

  4. Cover with foil and place the baking dish on the prepared baking sheet to catch drips. Bake until the vegetables are tender, about 75 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 15 minutes more.

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