Return to your roots |

Return to your roots

It seems that everyone is researching their roots these days, so why not in the kitchen too? If you haven’t eaten turnips or parsnips lately, here is your chance. Long considered unglamorous – the food of peasants – root vegetables provide an exuberant range of flavors.

Parsnips and carrots are true roots. Any vegetable we eat that comes from underground is also considered a root like the swollen stem tips of the potato, the tightly packed leaves of onions, the tubers of yams, and the corms of water chestnuts. The list goes on with shallots, ginger, garlic and horseradish.

Slow roasting gives them an entirely different quality and brings out their sweetness, reminiscent of your mother’s Sunday pot roast. The following recipe can be done with different variations of winter squash, sweet potatoes, and shallots or Yukon gold potatoes, red pepper, and lots of garlic cloves. Beets also work well, but I often clear a corner of the roasting pan to keep them separate so as not turn the whole dish red in the process. Roasted vegetables keep well in the refrigerator. Make enough for a couple meals or use the leftovers with scrambled eggs in the morning.

This recipe uses rosemary. It’s one of those herbs that people either love or hate. If you are in the latter category, do experiment with other herbs such as thyme and/or marjoram. Having at least one rosemary plant is essential near the kitchen somewhere as it is so useful in a wide variety of dishes. If you don’t have rosemary in your kitchen garden, it is easy to take a cutting from a friend or along the road. Cut off a 3 to 5 inch piece, not off the woody, more mature stem but the younger, still soft stem. With your fingernails, pinch off the lower leaf brackets so you have at least two inches of bare stem and push down into a small pot of good potting soil. This time of year, just leaving it on the deck should keep it moist enough. When a good strong root base has developed, plant outdoors. Once established, this Mediterranean native barely needs watering all summer.

The only real secret to this recipe is to cut pieces in about the same size so they cook evenly. I like serving it with a small salad and perhaps a roasted Portobello mushroom or grilled chicken breast. A meal of several small plates of equal importance rather than a main course accompanied by side dishes is a nice variation on meal planning. Enjoy!

Patti Bess is a local freelance writer and author. She is the host of What’s Cookin’ on KVMR-FM radio. E-mail her with questions or for more information at

(Serves 2)

1 large carrot

2 medium parsnips

2 small turnips

2 medium-size new potatoes (or Yukon gold potatoes)

1 small to medium red onion

4 to 6 whole cloves garlic

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1- 3-inch sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Generous fresh ground pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash all vegetables. Peel carrots, turnips and parsnips. Cut carrots and parsnips into 2-inch lengths. Cut the thicker portion in half crosswise. Quarter the onion leaving root ends on to hold together. Cut turnips and potatoes into bite-size chunks. Remove skins from garlic but leave them whole.

Place all cut up vegetables on a baking sheet in one layer. In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary (or other fresh herbs). Toss this throughout the vegetables and add salt and pepper to your own taste.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes and test pieces with a fork. A simple sauce could be made up of a half cup of sour cream or low fat yogurt, two tablespoons lemon juice, salt and grainy mustard to taste.

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