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GOOD COOKING

At the Root of Winter

March 08, 2000|ABBY MANDEL

Winter vegetables make for interesting dishes. Consider parsley root and celery root--roots that store well during the winter and pack great flavor. Refrigerate each in plastic bags up to about 10 days. Paired with potatoes, as they are in these recipes, the results are quite delicious and soothing.

Parsley root is a beige parsnip look-alike except for its feathery green parsley leaves. To me, it tastes like parsley; to others, a carrot-celery mixture. Relatively unknown in this country, it's commonly used in Europe in soups and stews or as a vegetable. It is available in many supermarkets, but occasionally you have to request it. Choose firm roots with bright green leaves. Remove the leaves just before using and peel the root as you would a carrot. Use the leaves just like parsley.

Celery root--also called celeriac--is cultivated for its craggy, bulbous root with an intense celery taste. Although the roots range in size from an apple to a small cantaloupe, choose roots that are more to the apple size, firm and solid, without decay or soft spots and with a minimum of rootlets and knobs. The leaves remaining on the roots are inedible. Celery root can be eaten raw in salads, although in these recipes it is cooked. To peel, use a sharp paring knife but do not throw the peels in the disposal--they can clog it, requiring a plumber's visit.

Mandel is author of "Celebrating the Midwestern Table" (Doubleday & Co., 1996).

Mashed Winter Root Vegetables

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour * Vegetarian * Low-Fat

This mixture comes off as a nice taste surprise, as it's white and looks like potatoes. Serve with game, roasted or braised meats or poultry. I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes.

1 large celery root, peeled and thinly sliced

1 parsley root, peeled and thinly sliced

2 boiling potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Water

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons milk or chicken broth

1 tablespoon butter

Freshly ground white pepper

1 tablespoon minced parsley root leaves, optional, for garnish

* Put celery root, parsley root and potatoes in 3-quart saucepan; cover with water and add salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until very tender (test parsley root, as it takes the longest to soften), about 25 minutes. Drain in colander. Return to pot over medium heat to dry out mixture, shaking pot often, about 5 minutes.

* Mash vegetables with masher or ricer. Add milk or broth and butter. Season with peper to taste. Beat with whisk until fluffy. Serve hot, garnished with minced parsley (if using).

4 servings. Each serving: 67 calories; 663 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.63 gram fiber.

Smooth Winter Root Soup

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour * Vegetarian * Low-Fat

I prefer to use Yukon Gold potatoes.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 large celery root, thinly sliced

1 parsley root, peeled and thinly sliced

1 boiling potato, peeled and thinly sliced

1 (35-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Coarse salt

Freshly ground white pepper

1 tablespoon minced parsley root leaves, optional, for garnish

* Heat oil in 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add celery root, parsley root, potato, broth, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender (check parsley root), 25 to 35 minutes.

* Strain vegetables from broth, reserving both; puree vegetables in batches in blender, adding 1 to 1 1/2 cups broth to make smooth soup consistency. Return to pot. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot, garnished with parsley, if using. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 1 month. Gently reheat, adding water if too thick, and adjust seasoning.)

4 to 5 servings. Each of 5 servings: 76 calories; 614 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.65 gram fiber.

Creamy Winter Root Vegetable Gratin

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour * Vegetarian * Easy

This gratin is adapted from a potato and turnip recipe once served at Fredy Girardet's celebrated restaurant in Crissier, Switzerland. It's a splendid complement to lamb, beef, chicken or seafood.

3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 large baking potato, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

2 parsley roots, trimmed, peeled and thinly sliced

1 celery root, peeled, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream

2/3 cup whole milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Freshly ground pepper

* Heat butter in large, wide pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion softens, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Do not brown.

* Add potato, parsley roots, celery root, 2/3 cup cream, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Cook mixture, uncovered, stirring often, until mixture is thick and vegetables are almost tender, about 25 minutes.

* Transfer mixture to greased, shallow 6-cup baking dish. Smooth surface with spatula. (Can be made to this point a day ahead, cooled, then covered and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before baking.) Spoon 2 tablespoons cream over mixture; spread with spatula.

* Bake at 350 degrees until gratin bubbles and is lightly browned, 35 to 45 minutes. For a browner surface, place under moderate broiler 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot.

6 servings. Each serving: 209 calories; 701 mg sodium; 62 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.54 gram fiber.

*

Dish and towel from Crate & Barrel stores.

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