The Rewards of Cooking with Root Vegetables

From the lecture series: The Everyday Gourmet — Cooking with Vegetables

By Chef Instructor Bill Briwa, The Culinary Institute of America

The humble root vegetable is a treasure. It is readily available, inexpensive, tremendously versatile, and very tasty. But how do you cook with it?

Root Vegetables

Vegetables are connected to the seasons and to certain regions, so they represent an authentic eating experience. Root vegetables are great for making your diet healthier. Furthermore, vegetables of any type are sustainable and inexpensive.

Root vegetables include carrots, turnips, radishes, parsnips, and celery root.

Selecting Root Vegetables

When you buy root vegetables, if the tops are attached, you can use them as an indicationof the quality and condition ofthe vegetable. If the tops are fresh, you can assume that the vegetable itself is fresh. If the tops are softened and wrinkled, then they have taken some of the nutrition, moisture, and sugars from the root, which will not be in prime condition.

Learn more about how to select and cook winter squash

This is a transcript from the video series The Everyday Gourmet: Cooking with Vegetables. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Use Root Vegetables to Boost Other Dishes

Think of ways to combine unfamiliar and familiar vegetables, too. White potatoes have some nutrients, but they pale in comparison to other root vegetables. Pureeing turnips or sweet potatoes and adding to mashed potatoes boosts the nutrition.

Learn more about recipes showcasing inflorescents—vegetables that also happen to be flowers

Carrot Tartare

Make the Root Vegetable Classic Carrot Tartare

Ingredients

  • 2-3 carrots, very fresh with tops, topped and peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 egg yolk, pasteurized
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 tbs capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs cornichon, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 avocados, coarsely diced
  • microgreens
  • carrot tops, fried
  • parsley, freshly and finely chopped (optional garnish)

Learn more about how to select and cook summer squash

Cooking Instructions

This dish treats carrots like they are ground meat, with all the classical garnishes for a tartare.

Start with very fresh carrots. Cut off the tops and bottoms and peel them. Then, cut the carrots into smaller pieces and put them in a food processor. Pulse the carrots until they are uniform and fairly small (think ground beef).

In a bowl, combine the classic garnishes for a steak tartare: egg yolk (pasteurized, because the egg will be consumed raw), Dijon mustard, anchovies, finely minced shallot, diced capers, and diced cornichon. Mix well. Add lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and olive oil.

Add carrots to the dressing and stir everything together. Taste for flavor and add salt and pepper—and more olive oil, if necessary.

The first layer of the tartare is avocado. Dice the avocado, adding lemon juice to keep it from discoloring. Add salt and pepper to season it.

Spoon the avocado into the bottom of a ring mold and use a fork to press it down into a uniform layer. Then, add the carrot tartare in a layer on top. Again, press it down so that it’s uniform. Lift the ring mold to reveal the circularly stacked avocado and carrot tartare.

Briefly, fry the tops of the carrots in 350-degree oil until they’re crispy (when the bubbling subsides). Drain the carrot tops on a paper towel.

On top of the tartare, add microgreens, such as arugula. Also, add the fried carrot tops. You can also use parsley as an optional garnish. Drizzle olive oil around the plate.

Common Questions About Root Vegetables

Q: What exactly is a root vegetable?

A root vegetable is the part of certain edible vegetables which grows underground, acting as a storage organ for energy for the rest of the vegetable.

Q: What are considered some of the healthiest root vegetables?

Almost all edible root vegetables are healthy, but some of the more popular and healthy root vegetables are ginger, fennel, beets, turnips and onions.

Q: Is the potato considered a root vegetable?

Potatoes are not precisely considered root vegetables but are distinguished as tubers, which differ from root vegetables like beets or fennel in that they generally do not have foliage above ground.

Q: Are mushrooms designated as root vegetables?

Mushrooms are actually not vegetables at all but rather edible fungi. They grow on mycelium systems that run underground for miles.

This article was updated on 1/13/2020

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