As the weather cools and darker evenings beg for cozier, comforting dinner fare, put seasonal root vegetables in your meal planning rotation. Encompassing a range including everything from carrots to turmeric, some of the most satisfying and flavorful of veggies fall under this category. Read on for some tips on incorporating lesser-known ones, as well as the best way to include tried-and-trues.
What Exactly Is A Root Vegetable?
A root vegetable is one that grows underground. Think potatoes, ginger, celery root, yams...the list goes on and on. They’re a great gluten-free alternative to wheat-based starches like pasta, and are typically more nutrient-dense and higher in fiber than other starches like rice. You can get your fill of antioxidants from some of the more colorful members of this family (carrots, yams, beets) and plenty of vitamin C from nearly all of them.
Parsnips, which look like large white carrots, have a warm and somewhat spicy flavor that lends itself to fall fare. A good source of fiber and vitamin C, they also are packed with folate, which we usually associate with leafy greens. While parsnips are always wonderful pureed into soups and stews, you can showcase them as a main with the right spices and a flavorful cheese. We’re partial to this parsnip gratin recipe, which also features carrots, adding further sweetness and depth to the flavor.
Celery root (a.k.a. celeriac) makes a lower-calorie, lower-carb and more nuanced-flavored substitute for potatoes, whether as a mashed side or in a soup. It’s pretty much the epitome of winter flavor, pairing deliciously with mushrooms or steak. Or, lighten up and incorporate it into this soup with leeks.
Another under-utilized root veggie is fennel, which packs a major flavor punch and is related to carrots, parsley, dill, and celery. The stalks and fronds are discarded before cooking, but can be simmered to add a licorice flavor to vegetable stock. A sure sign of the season is the appearance of shaved fennel in salads (it pairs beautifully with the also-seasonal blood orange and some bitter chicories), but we’re partial to slow-roasted fennel.
Root Veggies Are Best When Roasted
The best way to incorporate these vitamin-packed veggies is with a roasted root vegetable melange. Roasting tends to enhance their sweetness and mellow out any bitterness. We also like this method because you can roast any combination of root veggies, no recipe required. When it comes to seasonings, root veggies pair well with hearty green herbs, like rosemary and thyme, and warming spices like cumin, curry powder, and cinnamon.
One of our favorite combinations is beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots tossed with grated ginger and turmeric, to keep the rootsy theme and also add some spicy warmth to the dish.
You can use the same formula to roast any root veggie: chop your chosen veggies into a 1-inch dice, then toss with your favorite cooking oil, spices, and some salt. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until fork-tender (the cooking time will depend on how tender you like your veggies).
It’s definitely worth prepping a big batch on the weekend. You can have the extra as a side with meats, as a topping on salad greens, or in a breakfast hash...the possibilities are endless. So, when you’re meal planning this fall, take this opportunity to get in touch with your roots! - Sarah Bossenbroek