Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Eat a Root

This kohlrabi is the size of a healthy newborn baby, weighing in at 6.5 pounds. It represents everything that seems challenging about winter vegetables. What do you do with this thing?

For the first time, we have joined a winter CSA (Hillside Farm in Media) and that means roots. At our biweekly pickup last week we got 16 pounds of sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, watermelon radishes, and rutabagas. (You're right, cabbage isn't a root, just a great storage vegetable.) What's amazing is how these dirty, dense, heavy vegetables, once they're cleaned up, cut up, and treated well, can make delicious slaws, soups, stews, and pickles. Or you can always just roast them. And they have a nice long storage life. Did you hear that, peas and asparagus? Are you paying attention, zucchini blossoms? A root can wait patiently for its destiny.

Still and all, it's dispiriting to flip through cookbooks past all the tomatoes and peas, when your CSA won't have any for months. But one day in the fall as I was browsing at the Reading Terminal Cookbook Stall , the actual stall, not their website, I found the perfect answer to season envy, Recipes from the Root Cellar, by Andrea Chesman.

Winter is the best time to have a specialized cookbook like this. No distractions, just an immersion in the present. The other day I made her Shredded Root Vegetable Linguini. I shredded carrots, kohlrabi, turnips, parsnips, and a big radish in the food processor, and then sauteed them with onion and garlic, added a little white wine, and tossed it with the pasta. Delicious! A root vegetable, when shredded, becomes delicate and amenable to being mixed with many grains or other vegetables. I had leftover shredded vegetables, so I tossed them with lemon juice, avocado oil (my new thing), a little sesame oil, and toasted walnuts for a light, late supper.

As for that kohlrabi? I used 3 pounds of it to make a half gallon of refrigerator pickles, and they are delicious, slightly sweet and tart and a little hot. This particular recipe, Quick Kohrabi Pickle, is actually from the blog Hungry Tigress.

Only 3.5 pounds left to go.

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