Whether the decor is faux '50s silver and neon or authentic greasy spoon, diners are classic Americana, down to the familiar menu items. Rich, poor, black, white--all rub shoulders in the vinyl booths and at formica counters. We explore the enduring appeal and nostalgia of the diner.
As winter nears, it’s time to file away recipes for tomatoes and asparagus and make room in the refrigerator and pantry for the season’s root vegetables. While their appearance can be dark and earthy, enthusiasts say these under-appreciated winter vegetables can make up a number of flavorful side dishes, entrees and even desserts. Kojo talks about the variety of root vegetables you’ll find at market and how you can use them in your kitchen.
- Juliet Glass manager, Penn Quarter, H Street NE and Ballston FRESHFARM Market farmers markets
- Diane Morgan cookbook author, 'Roots: The Definitive Compendium'
Recipes From Roots: The Definitive Compendium
Rutabaga Hash With Onions And Crisp Bacon
Make this hash for a weekend brunch or as an easy weeknight supper. I like to serve it with a tossed green salad or a steamed vegetable and a crusty loaf of bread. Pass Tabasco or other hot sauce at the table; the vinegary, smoky flavor of hot sauce complements the rutabagas, bacon, and chiles. Poach eggs to place on top of this hearty hash. The runny soft-cooked eggs are a perfect accompaniment.
yield: serves 4 to 6
6 slices bacon, about 5 oz/140 g, cut into ¾-in/2-cm pieces
2 lb/910 g rutabagas, ends trimmed, peeled, and cut into ½-in/12-mm dice
1 large yellow onion, cut into ½-in/12-mm dice
2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into slices ¼ in/6 mm thick
1 Anaheim chile, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-in/12-mm dice
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
½ tsp kosher or fine sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce for serving
In a 12-in/30.5-cm frying pan, preferably cast iron, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
Pour off all but ¼ cup/60 ml of the fat from the pan. Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the rutabagas and onion, and sauté, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring once, for 7 minutes to steam the rutabagas. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are browned at the edges, about 1 minute longer.
Add the celery and both chiles, stir briefly, and then cover and cook for 3 minutes longer. Uncover the pan and add the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rutabagas are fork-tender and the celery is crisp but not raw tasting. Fold in the cilantro and bacon. Serve immediately, garnished with additional cilantro. Pass the hot-pepper sauce at the table.
Yuca Fries With Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce
Put a pile of crisp, golden, salty, hot yuca fries in front of me and they will disappear in a heartbeat. The nutty, sweet flavor of the flaky interior is wonderful—and almost more interesting than a potato fry. Although the dipping sauce is nontraditional, the combination is completely appealing. I like to whirl the sauce in the blender until it turns pale green, with just specks of cilantro showing. To save time, you can whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.
yield: serves 4
1½ lb/680 g yuca
8 cups/2 L water
Kosher or fine sea salt
3 small dried red chiles such as chile de árbol
About 5 cups/1.2 L peanut, grape seed, or vegetable oil for deep-frying
Dipping Sauce Ingredients
½ cup/120 ml sour cream
½ cup/30 g minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp fresh lime juice
¼ tsp kosher or fine sea salt
To make the dipping sauce, in a blender, combine the sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and process until puréed. The sauce should turn soft green with dark flecks of cilantro. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The sauce can be made 1 day in advance.)
Use a heavy chef’s knife to trim off the ends and cut each yuca crosswise into pieces 3 in/7.5 cm long. Stand each piece upright and use a paring knife to cut down between the outer bark and the flesh, removing all of the waxy brown skin and the pinkish layer underneath. Halve the yuca lengthwise. Remove the fibrous central core.
In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tbsp salt and the chiles, then add the yuca. Simmer, uncovered, until tender when pierced with a wooden skewer, about 20 minutes. (Check often for tenderness. The yuca should be cooked through without getting mushy. In my experience, the pieces of yuca cook unevenly, with some turning tender before others. Remove the tender ones with a slotted spoon and drain, continuing to cook the other pieces until done.) Drain the yuca and transfer it to a bowl of ice water. When the yuca is cool, lift it out of the ice water and blot dry with paper towels. Cut the yuca into thick fries about ¾ in/2 cm wide.
Line two baking sheets with a double thickness of paper towels. Set a slotted spoon or wire-mesh skimmer alongside the baking sheets. Pour the oil to a depth of 3 in/7.5 cm into a deep, heavy pot, a wok, or an electric deep fryer and heat to 360°F/180°C on a deep-frying thermometer. Fry the yuca in small batches. Add a handful of fries to the hot oil and fry, stirring once or twice, until they are golden brown, 2½ to 3 minutes. (The timing will vary slightly, so look for color first and then sample a fry, testing for a crisp exterior and flaky interior.) Using the slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the chips to a prepared baking sheet to remove excess oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Continue frying in small batches until all of the pieces are fried. Make sure the oil is at 360°F/180°C before you add a new batch.
Transfer to a basket or serving bowl and serve hot with the dipping sauce.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Food Wednesday and boy is it Food Wednesday. Whether you pull them from the Earth in your own backyard, pick some up at a local farm stand or pluck them from a bin at the super market, root vegetables are what's in season, now. Potatoes, beets, yucca and tamarind often take a supporting role as familiar sides mashed or roasted. But they have much more to offer, taking center stage as a main dish, brining a fresh take to a delicious desert, even putting a new twist on a familiar cocktail.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHere to share the bounty of the season and tell us what to do with it is Juliet Glass, she is a market and program manager for FRESHFARM Markets. Juliet Glass is a former food writer. She's contributed to Elle, The New York Times and other publications. Juliet Glass joins us in studio. Thank you so much for joining us.
MS. JULIET GLASSThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd for bringing so much stuff. Which you'll describe later. Joining us from studios of OPB in Portland, Ore., is Diane Morgan. Diane Morgan is an award winning cookbook author, food writer and culinary instructor. She is author of 17 cookbooks, the latest of which is, "Roots: The Definitive Compendium with More Than 225 Recipes." Diane Morgan, thank you for joining us.
MS. DIANE MORGANOh, delighted.
NNAMDIAnd, Diane, I'll start with you. What exactly are we talking about when we talk about root vegetables?
MORGANWell, they are this whole family of storage organs, so-to-speak. They grow under the ground. So we think of tap roots and tree roots and corms and rhizomes and tubers. And so it embraces everything from beets to burdock, to salsify to ginger to turmeric to sweet potatoes to potatoes. It's this huge family. And within the book, I have 28 roots that are highlighted with a chapter devoted to each and then there's a final chapter in the book called "Other Roots," which are roots that are dominate in other cultures around the world but we wouldn't necessarily see them in North America.
NNAMDIAnd, Juliet Glass, has brought with her several members of the family. Juliet Glass, would you just talk a little bit about what we're looking at?
GLASSYes. I brought some of the stars of the fall root vegetable parade that we have in the Chesapeake. I have some sunchoke's which are kind of a gnarly, nubby root that looks a lot like ginger. If you cook them, they have a very silky, sweet taste and texture. I brought beets, I brought a couple different kinds of turnips and carrots. I brought a daikon radish, I brought scarlet turnips and sweet potatoes and then also some watermelon radishes. Which, when you, on the outside they're just, kind of, a pale white and then if you cut them open, they're a beautiful color of watermelon.
NNAMDIIn other words, Diane, we've decorated just for you. Diane?
MORGANOh, it sounds like a terrific combination.
NNAMDIAnd smells great. One category of vegetable that might spring immediately to mind as a root, Diane, is not in your book. Why no onions or ramps or garlic or shallots for that matter?
MORGANWell, it's a funny story. So as I was working on the book, it was getting larger and larger. The manuscript was nearly 800 pages. And my editor said, Diane, like, here's your choice, if you include the allium family, which is the onions, the garlic, the shallots, the leeks, et cetera, then you have to reduce the number of recipes for all the other roots to make this fit.
MORGANAnd I really felt strongly that I wanted all these roots, like the turnips and the rutabagas and the burdock and salsify to really be showcased because we're seeing them in the farmers markets, we're seeing them in the CSA boxes that people are getting. And I'd have to leave the allium family for another project. So I explained that in the introduction to the book.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, you have stepped into a Food Wednesday conversation on root vegetables. If you'd like to join that conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850. What are your favorite root vegetables and how do you prepare them? 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Diane, some of these vegetables are a little, well, deceptive. What do ingredients that many of us are familiar with like celery, like parsley, what do they have in common with the roots baring the same name?
MORGANWell, so plants are cultivated for their different parts. So what was once wild celery, which is the origins of celery as we know it as stalks, got cultivated for different reasons and wild celery was cultivated in part for its root because it is this delicious root. And so it became this larger, knobby, bulbous root. And it is, it's a different plant, even though, historically, it came from wild celery. But it was cultivated for a different purpose.
MORGANAnd so, celery root, as we know it, is not the root of the celery stalks. It's -- they've been cultivated for different reasons. So in the same way that parsley root -- while you could eat the roots of the herb parsley, there is a separate plant called hamburg parsley was actually cultivated for the root and it's this smaller, golf ball size root that's incredibly delicious on its own.
NNAMDIAnd Juliet was kind enough to bring along a sweet potato which helps us to clear up, yet another, difference. A lot of people think, sweet potatoes and yams are the same but they're not, right, Diane?
MORGANWell, actually, the confusion came into the market when the U.S. Sweet Potato Commission, which is a commodity board, supporting all the farmers that grow sweet potatoes, there's a lot of different varieties of sweet potatoes. And they wanted to distinguish between the light golden fleshed sweet potatoes and the darker ones that are higher in beta-carotene such as the garnet and the Beauregard.
MORGANAnd so they labeled the darker ones, yams but they're not in fact yams, they're sweet potatoes. So those are all sweet potatoes and what we know as true yams, we typically don't see in a standard super market or you have to go to a market that's serving Caribbean or a Southeast Asian population to really find true yams.
NNAMDIJuliet, if I head to one of the farmers markets you manage, well this weekend, what types of locally grown root vegetables will I find?
GLASSWell, I actually bought everything you see at this table at the Crystal City Market which, the last day was yesterday, but we have markets -- we have a market today and if you went there, it's some of the same farmers. Pretty much everything on this table, except for maybe the sunchokes. So you would find beets, like white beets, golden beets, red beets, you can eat both the tops and the root itself. You would probably find a different -- a variety of different turnips.
GLASSAt this time of year, they're going to still have their greens on them and you can eat the greens. What I suggest you do is, when you get your vegetable home, you cut the greens off and put them in a separate bag because they will, I don't know why, but they will make the vegetables get soft. And the greens will stay fresher that way and you can eat -- you could eat, basically, from the stem to root. You would be able to find carrots, again, with the stems on them, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery root.
GLASSWe did actually have -- a couple of our farmers did have parsley with the root but -- and I bought it and put it in soup but it wasn't -- it was more of a flavoring, it wasn't something you would munch on. And then as the months progress, a lot of these root vegetables are going to no longer have their greens at the market. But the farmers will harvest them and put them in cold storage. So these are all things that you're going to see at market until the first asparagus come in in April.
NNAMDIWell, Juliet, they're known for keeping a while but when you are choosing root vegetables, are there, well, signs of freshness that you should look for and maybe some signs that they could be passed their prime so you want to steer clear of them?
GLASSIf you're buying root vegetables that have the greens attached to them still, you want the greens to look perky and fresh, you want the vegetables to feel firm, when you touch them, potatoes shouldn't have eyes and, you know, those little green -- those little eyes that can sprout. You want -- or green spots. And then, most of the farmers, you know, who take care of their product, are going to remove the greens, if they no longer look fresh and just sell the root part. And that's totally fine and acceptable. You just want them to not be mushy or soft when you touch them.
NNAMDIDiane Morgan, going back a few generations, many families used to have a root cellar. How far back does that innovation date?
MORGANOh, old, old. Australians, original Australians started digging out root cellars to preserve their harvests. And that has been brought forward until now. I mean, it was throw road about it, I mean, digging out a root cellar, this is how people preserved and got through from harvest to the spring. And so it's just this wonderful heritage and many people now are digging out root cellars or -- in the Northeast, there's thousands of them that are old and that people might find on their property and they're digging out and using.
NNAMDIIf I don't happen to have a root cellar, what's the best way to store these vegetables in the fridge or pantry, Diane?
MORGANWell, it's -- in the refrigerator, I typically -- and they'll keep for several months in a refrigerator. I typically wrap them in either a brown paper sack or in a paper towel and then put them in a loosely covered plastic bag and keep them. You want moisture but you don't want them to be getting a lot of moisture directly on them.
MORGANSo you need something to absorb some of that. But if you are in an environment, I mean, Portland isn't cold enough to actually store these in the garage and create these, kind of, little miniature spaces in which you could create cubicles with anything from sand to saw dust to peat moss, to stack these up, keep them off the floor and actually store them. But you need almost refrigerator temperatures, 35 to 42.
NNAMDIThe number is 800-433-8850. Is there a root veggie dish that your Thanksgiving table would be incomplete without? Let us know, 800-433-8850. Here is Richard in Gaithersburg, Md. Richard, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RICHARDHi, Kojo, love your show.
RICHARDI got a question about wasabi which is a semi-aquatic root and I was wondering if your guests know of any other commonly or just eaten some root that's eaten somewhere else that is also semi-aquatic?
MORGANIf I can jump in.
MORGANLotus root is semi-aquatic, so are water chestnuts. And actually what's really interesting is wasabi is now being grown in Oregon in a hydroponic setting and it's one of the -- I think, Oregon and California are the only two places in the country that are doing this. And we don't typically see fresh wasabi in the market, some specialty markets will have it. It's expensive and -- but we all think of that little green putty-like glob on a sushi plate as being wasabi. And it's really ground and powdered horseradish that's been colored green and that gets hydrated with water. So it's a real pale substitute for fresh wasabi. But those are...
NNAMDIThanks for enlightening me about that. We're going to take a short break. Richard, thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Have you ever come across a root vegetable at a farm market or in your CSA box and been stumped about what to do with it? We've got answers. Just call us, 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com or send us a Tweet at kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our Food Wednesday conversation with Juliet Glass. She's a market and program manager for Fresh Farm Markets. She's a former food writer who has contributed to El, the New York Times and other publications. What did I just bit into and why was it so delicious and so colorful?
GLASSYou just sliced open a watermelon radish which from the outside looks kind of humble and drab. And when you...
NNAMDIFrom the inside looks like a watermelon.
GLASSYeah, it's just a beautiful kind of psychedelic burst of pink. And they can get much bigger than that. They can almost get the size of maybe tennis balls or a duck pin bowling ball. And it's a great way -- it's a great thing to add to a winter salad. It adds a lot of color. You won't miss your tomatoes at all that you shouldn't be eating at this time of year anyway. And it's a great conversation starter.
NNAMDIAlso joining us from the studios of OPB in Portland, Oregon is Diane Morgan, an award-winning cookbook author, food writer and culinary instructor. Diane Morgan is author of 17 cookbooks, the latest of which is called "Roots: The Definitive Compendium With More Than 225 Recipes." Diane, if I get a bunch of beets or carrots with the green still attached, I don't want to waste those greens, what are my options?
MORGANOh, my goodness. Well, one really fun thing I do with carrot tops is I make a carrot top pesto. And so if you are seeing the big bushy greens that look fresh, cut them off when you get home and pluck off the feathery tops. And I use them and make a pesto just like I would a basil pesto. So into the food processor is garlic and parmesan and the tops and a little bit of salt and olive oil. And I stream in the olive oil and it's just amazing. And so think about it as your winter time pesto when all the basil goes away.
MORGANAnd beets, the tender small beets can be added to a salad mix or -- in fact I had them for dinner last night. I just quickly sautéed them in a little bit of olive oil and just added a little bit of salt and pepper. It's just simple as that. They're really nutritious.
NNAMDIJuliet, when someone comes to the farm market and is interested in a vegetable that may be a little intimidated by the unfamiliar and not sure how to cook it, what's your advice on a good entry point?
GLASSSo my best suggestion for cooking root vegetables would be to roast them. And I like to use parchment paper, which you can buy at any supermarket. And you line your baking dish, any baking dish, a cookie sheet, a Pyrex dish with the parchment paper. And this will create a nonstick surface. And then you take your vegetables. You can do this with sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, a combination is always nice, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper. Put them in your baking dish and roast them at 400 degrees and they're going to become very sweet and caramelized. And the parchment paper means that all those yummy crunchy sweet bits are not going to get stuck to your pan.
GLASSAnd you could start with the sweet potato, which is kind of a -- we decided that's the gateway root vegetable. And from there once you're comfortable roasting those you can add carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, beets and take them out and wow your guests. Just don't crowd them in the pan and be sure to use parchment paper.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones. Here is Mary in Arlington, Va. Mary, your turn.
MARYHi. I'm planning on -- thank you -- I'm planning on cooking root vegetables tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I want to prepare them today. If I cut--I have turnips, sweet potato, the new potatoes and parsnips. If I prepare them today will they turn brown tomorrow or how do I keep them so that they'll be okay tomorrow but I don't have to be bothered with the prep work tomorrow?
GLASSSo you want to prep them in advance but not cook them in advance you mean, right?
MARYYes, ma'am. Can I do that?
GLASSI defer to Diane on this.
MORGANWell, I would go ahead and cook them today. And the method that Juliet just described would be perfect. And they'll reheat beautifully. And that would be -- if you prep them today you're going to get browning.
MORGANAnd so just go ahead and cook them and let them cool at room temperature for an hour or two. And then refrigerate them and just, you know, pop them in to bring them out about an hour before -- or even two hours before you're going to serve them. There's nothing in them that's going to go bad. And then just put them back in the oven and they'll be perfect.
MARYThank you. That is great advice.
MARYI can't tell you how grateful I am and thank you very, very much.
NNAMDIHappy Thanksgiving to you and good luck to you. We move on to Adrian in Philadelphia, Pa. Adrian, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ADRIANOh, thank you. A friend of mine took me to a Korean grocery store where she went to a bin filled with what looked like some sort of sweet potato but it was more of a root vegetable and she didn't know the English term for it. And she proceeded to start breaking off the tips on either end of this root vegetable and it appeared that everybody else was doing that. And the vegetables that were in there had already had the ends broken off so she just broke off a bigger piece of the end. And that was her way of determining if it was fresh.
ADRIANI'm just wondering, one, what is this vegetable and two, is that common practice? And does it actually affect the health of the vegetable having it exposed like that to the elements?
NNAMDIOur own version of stump the panelists. Starting with you, Diane.
MORGANWow, you know, when I go to a Korean market I'm a little stumped because I'm trying to figure out what this is. But there's -- Koreans use so many types of Asian radishes. There's lobok, there's daikon. I'm wondering if this is a daikon. I mean, it's something that would have to be able to snap. As opposed to maybe like ginger or galangal, but galangal isn't used as much in Korean as it is in more Cambodian and Thai. Do you have any idea what color it was?
NNAMDII don't know. Juliet's busy breaking off the end of the sweet potato here, but go ahead, Adrian.
ADRIANOh, I'm sorry. It looks brown on the outside. It has pointy ends. It was about the size of a regular potato and it was a little bit whitish on the inside. And I think you were right when you said that whether it snapped or not was an indicator of its freshness.
MORGANYeah, I mean, a yam -- a true yam which they don't really -- it would be really tough to snap that apart. They're too firm. So unless it's something like -- but you're describing -- and you're not describing in a stick like. Because burdock root, which is used in Korean cuisine would snap and you would break it and you would see whether the flesh was really this kind of creamy white. So that's a possibility but it's kind of a stick like root that's brown.
ADRIANOkay. I'll look into that.
NNAMDI...Adrian, thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. We're talking about root vegetables. You can also send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you tend to get into a rut in terms of vegetable variety in colder months? 800-433-8850 is the number to call. We move on to Steven in Brookeville, Md. Steven, your turn.
STEVENHi, yes. Two things. Thank for taking the call. I've often been curious, I understand that the root of kudzu could be -- and I'm timid to try it less it be poisonous. Could your guests comment on that? And also I was fascinated to hear burdock mentioned in the introduction. I have a lot of burdock growing around in my property I think. So what are the potentials for some of these wild-growing root vegetables?
MORGANWell, kudzu is typically -- what do they call that -- the -- it's the root that took over the south -- it's typically dried and used as a thickener. And so I didn't really come across any preparation in which I would use it fresh. I would -- it's used raw and it wasn't one of the dominant ones in my book. It fell in that last chapter called other roots. Burdock root, on the other hand, just has so many possibilities. Anything from a classic Japanese condiment called kinpira, which is burdock that's cut into matchsticks along with carrots.
MORGANBut I really -- burdock, to me, had this incredible affinity with mussels. And as I was working with the root I really fell in love with that. And so I did a steamed mussel dish with burdock root and shallots and sundried tomatoes. And you have to make sure -- and maybe this is where you snap it in the grocery store and don't really -- or at the market -- but if it just bends then it's not super fresh. And -- but if it snaps then you have a really nice texture to it and it's firm and you cut it into really thin slices to allow it to simmer and braise in that broth.
MORGANBut I also loved it -- I did a stew with it that my colleague Elizabeth Andow (sp?) who's an expert on Japanese cuisine did a miso thickened pork and burdock soup, which is really quite wonderful. So I've either used it as part of a condiment in an Asian style or simmered in a broth like stew or braise like the mussels.
NNAMDIGood luck to you, Steven. Thank you for calling.
STEVENThank you for taking the call. Thank you.
NNAMDIJuliet, in addition to being tasty, these vegetables tend to pack a lot of nutritional bang for your buck. How do you encourage people to incorporate them into their meals?
GLASSBecause they're starchy they end up being sweet once you cook them. So people generally like things that are sweet. And I think once you start people might have associations with beets. They're thinking of canned beets or some bad association with their grandmother beets. I don't know but I think a fresh beet, if you just roast it and put a little butter and salt and pepper, it's sweet, it's delicious. Carrots so the same thing. Raw carrots are delicious but farmers market's carrots are a completely different experience.
GLASSThey just are so much better than what you get at a supermarket that once you just start tasting them -- and as starchy vegetables, especially once you cook them, they develop -- their sweetness just comes out. And for me, you know, tasting is believing.
NNAMDIDiane, your book includes nutritional information on each of the 28 roots that you write about. So can you talk a little bit about how you encourage people to incorporate them into their meals?
MORGANWell, I think of them as -- so sweet potatoes are at the top of all vegetables for nutrition. They're incredibly nutrient dense. They're really high in beta-carotene and lower in calories. Potatoes fall into that, too. You know, we give potatoes such a short triff. And they actually have as much potassium in them as a banana. So we have to think of all these as great antioxidants and great for all the beta-carotene, like a carrot, like a beet.
MORGANAnd so I think of them as less of a starch on the plate, even though they are as a secondary vegetable. So if we're moving towards hopefully while we're having meat as the less of a focal point and we're moving vegetables to the center of the plate and using meat as a condiment, this is really where the roots shine and really can dominate.
NNAMDINothing to get listeners and callers' interest like an apparent mystery. So we have several callers who would like to weigh in on our own stump the panel mystery. We'll start with Suzanna in Alexandria, Va. Suzanna, what's your take?
SUZANNAYes. Good afternoon. I was going to comment on the snappy vegetable, the root vegetable that somebody was questioning. Oftentimes the Asian markets in the area also have an American produce. And there is a root vegetable called malanga that is often sold with the produce. And it is a root vegetable and people do that snappy thing. You can boil the vegetable and it comes out really creamy, almost like a breadfruit, which isn't a root vegetable but it has that kind of texture.
NNAMDIOkay. Suzanna thinks it might be a malanga. Thank you for your call, Suzanna. Let's see what Melanie in Vienna, Va. thinks it is. Melanie, your turn.
MELANIEHi. I'm calling -- I'm actually from West African origin from Ghana originally. And I shop at our local Asian market (unintelligible) . I would describe that -- if it was a reddish brown color on the outside and creamy white on the inside that's our version of a sweet potato. It's less crumbly or creamy in texture than the yellow sweet potatoes in the U.S. but it's a wonderful cooking potato and I love it because it doesn't break apart as easily. But it's much sweeter than just the regular potato. It's really delicious.
NNAMDISo you think that's what it is. Melanie, thank you for your call.
MELANIEI do. Thank you.
NNAMDIAnd finally here is Yasmine in Silver Spring, Md. Yasmine, what do you think?
YASMINEHi, Kojo. I would have to agree with Melanie that I believe it is a sweet potato. I also shop at the Asian markets and the texture and the color of that that the caller described seems to fit in my description of the West African or the Caribbean sweet potato, which is very different than the orange colored sweet potato here, which is really more a yam. So I think it definitely is a sweet potato and you can snap that end off and it is white and creamy inside.
NNAMDIWe've come full circle here, Diane, because we just got through asking...
MORGANI know, I...
NNAMDIGo ahead, Diane.
MORGANWell, I just -- those two terms are just completely getting confused. And what they're talking about are true yams and what we have in the U.S. are sweet potatoes. So...
GLASSAnd just to further confuse things we have something at our markets here -- I'm sure you have them in Oregon, which farmers call old fashioned white sweet potatoes, which are...
GLASS...sweet potatoes. They're just white. They tend to be a little more fibrous and they -- when I ask the farmers about them they all say, oh these are old fashioned sweet potatoes. They're -- they used to be white. So I don't know how that further muddles the problem, but...
MORGANOh, I know. I was just fascinating to listen to these terms getting battered around. But the -- back to that malanga, that was interesting. And it could be malanga but I've never seen malanga at a Korean market. Malanga is this wonderful root but I've only seen it at markets that really serve a Hispanic population. So -- but I do -- I have seen people break that off and it is really white inside. But it's got this kind of brownish hairy exterior to it. It's a fabulous root. I did not -- I had never used it before I worked on this book and I'm in love with it.
NNAMDIWell, I'm glad so many people are weighing in, Diane, because maybe it's mashed potato fatigue or maybe there's an intimidation factor that comes with trying to figure out how to tackle a bulbous dirt or wax encased rutabaga. But you think, Diane, that root vegetables face a bit of a PR problem. Are people starting to come around?
MORGANWell, they are and I really thank...
NNAMDIJudging from our calls they are, but go ahead, please.
MORGANRight. And plus you have such -- I was just in the Washington D.C. area and there's such an international population. So it's really fun to see, you know, all the different cultures that are weighing in and talking about all this -- the international roots. But, you know, I am so grateful to the farmers' markets that are just -- I mean, we have so many in Oregon and across the country they're just growing in number.
MORGANAnd it's these farmers who are bringing back and growing these roots and trying to introduce them. And then there's this gap between what's available and what people know, you know, knowing how to prepare them and how to make them interesting. So it's sort of all of this coming together that I think is exposing this underground world. So I -- maybe I'm at the forefront of the PR challenge of trying to get the word out because I really want people to have this exciting time during the winter besides this view of oh, gosh, I'm just stuck with turnips and rutabagas.
GLASSYou know, and also, what I like to tell people at the market if they're stumped with what to do with them, I just say, anything -- it's not completely a hundred percent true rule, but pretty much anything you can do to a potato you can do to a root vegetable. So if you like fried potatoes, try adding a few carrots or a few bits of turnip, just a little bit, and you can kind of baby step your way to just doing an entire dish of fried beets.
GLASSOr if you like things pureed, if you like mashed potatoes just try adding a few turnips or rutabaga. Actually, rutabaga and potatoes mashed together are delicious, especially delicious. But, you know, and then you can also do things with root vegetables that you can't do with a potato. A lot of them you can eat them raw, and a raw potato is not such a pleasant dining experience. But the radishes can be eaten raw and be thrown into salads, and they can also be cooked.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, when we come back, we continue our conversation on root vegetables. If you have called, stay on the line. If the phone lines are busy, shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or send email to email@example.com. It's Food Wednesday. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's a Food Wednesday conversation all about root vegetables with Diane Morgan, an award-winning cookbook author, food writer, and culinary instructor. She's the author of 17 books, the latest is called "Roots: The Definitive Compendium" with more than 225 recipes. Joining us in our Washington studio is Juliet Glass, market and program manager for Fresh Farm Markets. Juliet Glass is a former food writer who's contributed to Elle, the New York Times and other publications.
NNAMDII'll go directly to the phones because a lot of people await us there. We will start with Allison in Arlington, Va. Allison, your turn.
ALLISONOh, hi, Kojo. I've never called before, but I -- one of the vegetables I love is parsnip, and it's hard to find in the stores. Whenever I find it, I snap it up, and it's a wonderful root vegetable.
NNAMDIWanted to bring parsnips into the conversation. Care to add to that, Diane Morgan?
MORGANOh, I love parsnips. I actually just bought some yesterday at the market for Thanksgiving. I'm making a -- and here's where the sweet side of...
NNAMDII was about to ask you about that. Go ahead.
MORGANHere's the sweet side of roots. So I'm making a three-layer parsnip cake with cream cheese frosting. So think about carrot cake, but sub out the carrots and finely grate parsnips and it's fabulous.
NNAMDIJuliet, odds are good most of us will be sitting down to a meal tomorrow that will include at least one root vegetable. You've heard Diane talk about how she's using parsnips. Which root vegetables will be taking a turn on your table, and how are you preparing them?
GLASSI'm actually not going to be cooking the entire meal this year. I'll be in Westchester, but I know that we have sweet potatoes that will probably just be simply baked and sliced. If I were preparing a dish, I would a mixed root vegetable, roasted root vegetable as I described on parsnip -- or on parchment paper, and then what I like to do to kind of brighten the dish a little bit is to make a gremulata which is lemon zest, fresh garlic and parsley, and you chop that very, very fine, and then when your vegetables come out of the oven, you sprinkle it on top and they become very aromatic, and it adds a little bit more dimension to the dish.
NNAMDIHere is Eric in Washington. Eric, your turn.
ERICThank you. Yes. My in-laws' Thanksgiving dinner, my wife's mother, always prepares mashed rutabagas and I'm curious, there's an uncertainty in the family where that tradition came from. I wonder if anyone on the panel knows any cultural or regional ties to mashed rutabagas.
NNAMDIMashed rutabagas, Diane Morgan?
NNAMDIWhat's the tradition?
MORGANIt's classic, really eastern European, almost, you know, it's -- they were in Russia as well. My grandmother made them. But it's also could be English. So you have this whole confluence of these roots that were poverty foods that were prepared in really simple ways, and rutabagas certainly fall into that category. So depending on the ethnicity and how they were prepared, yeah, and I would agree with Juliet.
MORGANI have a -- in the book, a wonderful mash of a combination of potatoes and rutabagas, and I did them with some sour cream and fresh dill.
GLASSDiane, can I ask you something about the rutabaga? Is that not a hybrid of a cabbage and a turnip, or is that a make -- something I imagined being the case?
MORGANNo. No. No. That is what it came out of. So it was -- it's exactly that. It was a cross between a turnip and a wild cabbage.
GLASSAnd why is it waxed at the supermarket? Because I think this a barrier for a lot of people to trying rutabaga, is that it's waxed and sometimes will have sprouts coming out of, and it looks kind of like a freaky thing to get started with.
MORGANWell, it's one of those roots that you need to preserve the moisture within the root or it just really dries out. So there typically -- like jicama is that way too. They're typically dipped in a food-grade wax, or, you know, maybe at the farmer's market you might even see them in a food-grade beeswax. And you're going to peel them anyway.
MORGANSo that just -- you just rinse them and peel that away, but it's a preservation technique.
NNAMDIEric, thank you for your call. Juliet, with so many restaurants focusing on local food, that often means that root vegetables in the winter. Do you think that farm-to-table chefs feel, well, somewhat constrained by the fall and winter selection?
GLASSAll the chefs I know love the root vegetable parade. They get tired of it, and when you get tired of it, that's when nature starts doing something else. And in the Chesapeake, you actually do get root vegetables. They grow them in this area, both in the spring an in the fall, because they grow very well in cold weather, in cooler weather, and they don't get too large, and they also -- you have less bug pressure.
GLASSBut, you know, I -- chefs are -- have great palates and they know good food, and they enjoy what nature has to offer at this time of year.
NNAMDIOnto Patricia in Westminster, Md. Patricia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PATRICIAOh, you were talking about beets. My daughter has a two year old and a four year old. She makes something she calls beet loaf with ground beef, and she gets her beets and carrots and stuff and the kids just devour that. I grew up with a mom from England and then moved to Canada, and we always had mashed rutabagas for Thanksgiving.
NNAMDIThank you for sharing that with us. Since you're speaking of beets, we got an email from Audrey who says, "My husband loves beets, but I'm afraid to cook them at home because they can stain cutting boards and pans, clothes, et cetera. Do your guests have any tips for cooking beets at home and avoiding stains?" Diane?
MORGANWell, I buy a box of disposable gloves that I use when I'm working with beets, and pomegranates and other things that are just naturally going to stain your hands. And instead of using a white like polypropylene board, I like to use like a bamboo board or a wood board, and I clean it up right away with a diluted Clorox solution, and that really helps with the staining issue.
NNAMDIOr wear your beet-colored t-shirt.
MORGANWear a black apron.
GLASSI think they're stains of honor.
GLASSThat you're making something your husband likes, so you should just do it.
NNAMDIStains of honor. Patricia, thank you very much for your call. Diane, we've talked a bit about desserts made with root vegetables, but we've got, in your book anyway, a couple of cocktail recipes, too. Tell us about the carrot margarita and your crosne garnished martini.
MORGANWell, I couldn't resist. Portland is this edgy food scene with -- and, you know, it's sort of like we can't stay out of the papers for all the innovative between the food carts and the restaurants and the mixologists in town. And so a colleague friend of mine has a cocktail lounge, and he makes this carrot margarita, and it's so delicious, and it's carrot juice in which you're adding in triple sec and tequila and lime juice, and a little bit of lemon juice, and it all gets shaken up together in a cocktail shaker, and -- with a salt rimmed, and it's orange and it's fabulous, and I sort of sometimes think it qualifies as breakfast fare.
MORGANBut it's just a really -- it's the same thing. It's taking these roots and turning them on their head so to speak, and finding really creative ways to use them. So to me, it's a -- if you were having a wintertime party, it would be really fun to pull out a pitcher of carrot margaritas. But crosnes and you, as well as anyone else, now I wish I would have put the pronunciation of crosnes in the book.
NNAMDIYeah. Because I called it crosne…
NNAMDIAnd everyone does. And that's the way it looks. They're original to China. They made their way into Europe, and the French fell in love with them, and three years ago at Christmas time, I was in Lyon, France, and my daughter was studying over there, and we went over to visit and got an apartment for 10 days. And I was shopping in the market and sure enough next to the bin of potatoes and the bin of onions was this bin of crosnes and I was jumping for joy, and I bought them.
MORGANAnd in the best sense, they look like little Michelin men. They have these little like these curved sections with ridges, and in the worst sense you could say they look like grubs. But they're -- I know, but they're -- they're about the size of your index finger and they're incredibly delicious. They're crunchy like a water chestnut, and so they -- I used them in stir fry, I saute them, I simmer them in a truffled cream, which is a classic French preparation. I sautéed them with pepper bacon and garlic and parsley.
MORGANBut I pickled them and put them in either a vodka or gin martini, and it's kind of just a fun little -- but...
NNAMDIIt's interesting because my producer, Tayla Burney, and I had the crosne-crone debate before the show. We decided to arm wrestle for it, and she won, and so I said crosne, and it's really crosne.
GLASSSo what does it taste like? Is it sweet, is it...
MORGANIt's a kind of -- it reminds me of eating a pine nut.
MORGANIt -- it has that kind of ...
GLASSSo it's like creamy...
MORGANYeah. It has this kind of creamy, nutty flavor to it, but the texture is really crisp, as I said, like a water chestnut. So it just -- when they were photographing my book, they found crosnes in New York. They're grown in Oregon, they're grown in California, and they're sort of -- it's another one of these roots that is kind of making an appearance. I've seen them on restaurant menus in New York. Still esoteric. They're one of the esoteric ones in the book, like arrowhead, but they deserve the chapter because they're really fun and...
GLASSSo it's up and coming root?
MORGANIt's an up and coming root.
GLASSSo to speak.
NNAMDIHere now is Don in Purcellville, Va. Don, your turn.
DONHi. Yeah. Thank you for the question. Love your show. I'm wondering about horseradish. Whenever you buy horseradish in the jar, not the prepared kind, but just the, you know, ground horseradish, I guess with vinegar in it or whatever, once you pop that seal and, you know, use a little bit, it seems to lose a lot of its kick within days if not, you know, say a couple of weeks, the jar is almost, you know, useless as far as the horseradish kick goes. Any thoughts on that?
MORGANWell, I -- so let's go to fresh horseradish which is available in the market, and my grandfather grew it. He loved it and he would grate it and cry his eyes out, but it was sort of this favorite tradition. And -- but one thing you could do, you know, air is a -- when you expose anything to air, you're changing the environment. And so when you buy a jar of prepared horseradish, you've got a vacuseal. The grated root is all the way up to the top.
MORGANAnd so one way to help preserve it is that I take a piece of plastic wrap and I -- once I've opened a jar, I press it directly onto the surface, and remove all the -- any exposure to the air, and that really helps, whether it's horseradish or sometimes even a condiment that I'll buy that -- like a specialty mustard. It really helps preserve it. So I would try to do that if you're buying prepared horseradish.
NNAMDIDon, thank you very much for your call. Juliet, if you could encourage everyone to try one new root vegetable this fall and winter, what would it be?
GLASSI would probably encourage people to try sunchokes. In this part of the country, you're going to see a lot of sunchokes at our farmers' markets. They're delicious. They're nutty, they're silky when you cook them. They crisp up beautifully, and they're easy to overlook because they're not very becoming.
NNAMDIRunning out of time very quickly. What would be your choice, Diane?
MORGANI really would go back to parsnips because they're so versatile and, you know, as we heard, people don't know what to do with them, and they -- they just have a huge application whether they're roasted or braised or grated into a cake.
NNAMDIDiane Morgan. She's an award-winning cookbook author, food writer, and culinary instructor. She's the author of 17 cookbooks, the latest is called "Roots: The Definitive Compendium" with more than 225 recipes. And Juliet Glass is a market and program manager for Fresh Farm Markets. She's a former food writer. Thank you both for joining us, and thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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