Sunday, January 15, 2012

Root vegetables

Oh, man, I'm so glad that I found Sharon Astyk's blog! She seems like a woman after my own heart. It's an old post, but I read earlier today her thoughts on root vegetables. She talks a bit about their historical importance (I do love history lessons, because I'm nerdy like that) as well as why they're important for the future. (If you're wondering what her credentials are, she's a teacher and a writer married to an astrophysicist. Yeah.)
Root vegetables, other than the ubiquitous, nutritious and delicious carrot (with a few potatoes) weren't a regular on our dining table when I was growing up. One thanksgiving, I don't remember why, we persuaded my mom to make something with sweet potatoes. She was surprised when at least Dravis and I loved them. (Brother, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure you were with me in saying, "Why don't we eat this more often?") My mom was surprised in part because she really doesn't care for sweet potatoes.
Years later, at a family Christmas gathering, my aunt made roasted root vegetables. Most of it was stuff that I was pretty familiar with by then--sweet potatoes, carrots, onions. But there was a white thing in it that I couldn't identify. So I asked her and found out that it was a parsnip. Surprise! I love parsnips, too. Once again I asked my mom why she never did anything with parsnips and found out that it's because they taste incredibly bitter to her. (I find them sweet and with a slight spiciness that's very unique.) I added them to my mental list of "foods I want to eat more of".
From my own culinary experimentation this past summer, I found out that I'm also a big fan of turnips. (Not so much for beets.) Maybe next summer I'll try a rutabaga (that most maligned of vegetables in my house--whenever my dad needed a funny word he'd put in "rutabaga!") and find out that I love it?
My point is, they're nutritious. They're seasonally appropriate, easy to grow, cheap, and there's no good reason (other than you just can't stand them) not to eat root vegetables more often. Go on, give them a try. Give even one of them more space in your diet. It'll do you good.
In the spirit of winter being the season of root vegetables, I made a moose stew the other day. I meant to make a moose roast without (as Shane makes it) lots of thick, creamy industrial soups. (He usually dumps several cans of cream of mushroom over a roast and adds veggies.) But then I got the idea to do more of a stew. So we cut up and browned the meat in big chunks, knowing that it would fall apart after lots of cooking. I cut up onions, carrots and parsnips (we didn't have room for potatoes!) and dumped them and the browned meat into the crockpot, covering them with a bit of salt and some oregano. This went into the fridge overnight, to be pulled out and plugged in in the morning and a whole carton of organic beef broth dumped in as well, cooked on low all day.
And that's it. How simple is that? (I meant to add peas when I got home but forgot.) I had a slice of toast with mine, but it was good all by itself. The only thing Shane didn't like is that the parsnips seemed to have lost all of their flavor by imparting it to the broth and the meat, which was amazing. This is definitely a recipe that will be repeated in our house. I wonder what other seasonally appropriate veggies I could put in here? Maybe some broccoli?

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