But first I had to buy some. I go to the grocery store and see some white root looking things. Could they be it? No signage. I look closer and see "parsley root" - close but not quite. Eventually I find them (signed), looking like a pile of carrots that Bunnicula attacked. I realize that I don't know what to look for in a parsnip. They all look a bit blah. I pick out the firm ones with fewer obvious defects and bring them home...where they sit for over a week in my veggie crisper because I've been too busy or too out of town to cook.
I finally got some time to cook them (thankfully parsnips store well), but then the problem became - how do I cook them? Googling for parsnip recipes yields lots of soup recipes and parsnip purees, but that isn't what I'm looking for. I finally find a recipe on the Food Network site that at least gives me an idea. It involves orange and ginger flavoring. And ooh - it uses pomegranate, another ingredient widely available in Azerbaijan. Let's do it.
Modifications from the original: This recipe was one where you read it and knew right away it would need some modifications. First off - it practically called for more onion than other veggies combined. Also - pomegranate isn't in season around here right now, so instead of topping the dish with pomegranate seeds, my version of the recipe has you reduce pomegranate juice to create a "dressing" of sorts. It really worked well and gave the whole dish some neat red highlights as well as additional flavor. But I think pomegranate seeds would be best of all, so go for the real stuff, you folks in Azerbaijan.
Roasted Parsnip and Carrot Salad with Pomegranate
Serves 4 (as a side dish)
Adapted from Food Network Kitchens
2 large carrots (about 12 ounces)
2 parsnips (about 10-12 ounces)
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
Zest of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup peanuts
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (see note below re substitution)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup pomegranate juice OR seeds of 1 ripe pomegranate
Preheat oven to 350.
Peel parsnips and carrots and chop into pieces about 1/2 to 3/4 inch on each side.
Mix all ingredients except the cilantro and pomegranate, making sure the oil and spices are evenly distributed.
Pour into a roasting dish and put in oven. Cook for about 40 minutes or until parsnips and carrots are soft, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
While the veggies are roasting, pour the peanuts into a shallow dish (a pie tin works perfectly) and toast in oven for about 5 minutes, or until slightly browned.
To make the pomegranate "dressing" - Pour the pomegranate juice into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until juice has at least halved in volume and begun to thicken. Remove from heat.
Stir cilantro leaves into vegetables. Top with the peanuts and drizzle with the pomegranate (or sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top). Serve while still slightly warm.
Verdict? Sweet, tangy and peppery good. Parsnips are a totally different taste than I expected, crisp with a hint of licorice (but just a hint - I don't like licorice but the parsnips are good). Next time I might consider omitting the black pepper and using cayenne instead, perhaps adding a bit of honey. But I certainly enjoyed it as is.
While eating the leftovers cold over a salad today, it struck me that a dollop of goat cheese might be nice on it as well. Just an idea~ Oh, and if you're one of those (weird!) people who don't like cilantro (it is genetic, I know, I just love the stuff), you might try substituting with flat leaf parsley.
Bonus ingredient tip: Ginger (in the root form you buy in the produce section) keeps well in the freezer. Just wrap it tightly in plastic and store inside an airtight bag. When you need to use some, peel the skin off of the frozen root using a paring knife and grate it with a Microplane or other fine grater. This way you'll always have it when you need it and won't waste money buying a whole root just to use a small amount.
Parsnip picture above by Gaetan Lee, used pursuant to Creative Commons License.