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VPR Table: Back To Vermont Roots

01/28/11 5:55PM
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courtesy *clairity* via Flickr

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 This week, food author Marialisa Calta explains the "root tuber generation gap".  You'll also learn which restaurants feature root veggies on their menu. 




Now is the time for all good Vermonters to get back to their roots. And their tubers. And their hardy greens.

Because if you want to eat local in winter, you better learn to love your rutabagas.

It's not hard to do. Mashed, roasted or braised, rutabagas are extraordinarily delicious. So are turnips, and parsnips, and kohlrabi, and beets. Cabbage and sweet potatoes. Celeriac. Brussels sprouts.

Unfortunately, many of the things that keep so nicely have a bad rep. Cabbage? Ew, smelly. Turnips? Visions of  a gagging Scarlett O'Hara, covered in dirt and vowing "As God is my witness...I'll never be hungry again." For a certain generation, root crops speak of wartime, privation, and poverty.

Andrea Chesman, the Ripton author of "Recipes from the Root Cellar," says that the post-war, convenience-food era eclipsed American's intimacy with the root and the tuber. "I think that a lot of knowledge was lost," she says. Root-wise, there exists  what she calls a "generation gap."

But the knowledge has been sneaking back. Home root cellars are to this decade what home saunas were to the 1970s. *In the kitchen, winter veggies have been upgraded with new flavors and techniques. The Lake-View Restaurant in South Burlington serves a pot pie with Misty Knoll chicken and roasted root vegetables. The Hen of the Wood in Waterbury spoons up buttered celery root as a side to Laplatte River short ribs. The Vergennes Laundry offers a tart heaped with root vegetables roasted in a wood-fired oven.

Gone are the overcooked, drab, watery root vegetables of yore. In their place are vibrant, tasty, dishes that can star in any meal. But they're still as economical as ever - a double bonus.

Yes, It's time to get back to our roots. We can save money,  and eat locally... and well. As God is our witness, we'll never be hungry again. We'll be snacking on delicious turnips.



Turnip Puff
Serves 4
Not all root vegetable dishes are rustic, as this elegant casserole proves. Turnip doubters may be converted with this light dish. You can also prepare it with rutabagas in place of turnips.

4 cups peeled, cubed turnip (about 2 pounds)
4 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1. Cover the turnips with salted water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 1-quart casserole dish.
3. Combine the turnips, 3 tablespoons of the butter, the garlic, and the onion in a medium bowl. Mash until pureed but do not puree; it will not be completely smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolks and beat until smooth.
4. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of egg whites into the turnip mixture to lighten it. Carefully fold in the remaining egg whites. Spoon the turnip mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve hot.

From Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman (Storey Publishing).© Andrea Chesman, 2010. Used with permission by the author. All rights reserved.

Southern-Style Mashed Rutabagas or Turnips
Serves 4
A little bit of sugar and some bacon goes a long way to making any vegetable irresistible. If you find yourself resisting root vegetables, consider this recipe - it works for all manner of roots, my favorite being rutabagas or a combination of rutabagas and turnips.

3 ounces salt pork, bacon, or pancetta, diced
2 cups water
2 1/2 pounds rutabagas and/or turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter

1. Combine the salt pork and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Add the vegetables, a generous pinch of sugar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cover, return to a boil, and boil gently until the vegetables are completely tender, about 45 minutes.
3. Drain the vegetables, reserving the cooking water. Add the butter and mash until smooth, adding a little cooking water as needed to obtain a fairly smooth puree.
4. Season to taste with additional sugar, salt, and pepper; serve hot.

From Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman (Storey Publishing).© Andrea Chesman, 2010. Used with permission by the author. All rights reserved.







vpr_table marialisa_calta food cooking vegetables roots health arts
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