Saturday, April 28, 2007

Featured Veggie PARSNIPS

Parsnips look like giant ivory carrots!
These days, the potato has pretty much taken the place of the parsnip as a source of starch in our diets. In days of old, before potatoes were deemed edible, the parsnip was prized not only for its long storage life, but also for its sweet, nutty taste and nutritional value. Parsnips can be eaten raw as well as cooked. Learn more about this nutritious root vegetable and try some interesting old and new
parsnip recipes.
Parsnip history and facts

The parsnip, botanically-known as Pastinaca sativum, is a starchy root vegetable resembling an overgrown ivory-skinned carrot. Parsnips grew wild in Europe and were considered a luxury item for the aristocracy in ancient Rome. Due to their natural sweet and nutty flavor, parsnips were usually served sweetened with honey or in fruited cakes and desserts.
Europeans brought parsnips to the United States in the 16th century, but to this day, they are not as popular with Americans as their carrot cousins. Although starchy like a potato, the parsnip is considered nutritionally superior. If you grow your own, this root vegetable is best harvested after the first frost since the cold converts the starch to sugar, sweetening the parsnip and mellowing the flavor.

Store unwashed parsnips in a cool dark place as you would carrots. Wrapped in a paper towel and placed in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator, they should last up to two weeks, if not longer. Cooked parsnips can be refrigerated and used within three days. To freeze, cut parsnips into 1/2-inch cubes and par-boil or steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Pack into containers, seal, and freeze for 8 to 10 months. Fully cooked parsnip puree may also be frozen for up to 10 months.
Parsnip cooking tips and usage

• Larger parsnips may need to be peeled. For cooked parsnips, many prefer to boil or steam the washed root and then scrape off the skin to preserve nutritional value.• Small, tender parsnips can be grated raw into salads.• Parsnips are best roasted in the oven, although many like them steamed and mashed like potatoes. • If your parsnips are over-sized, you'll need to trim out the bitter core before or after cooking.• To avoid mushy parsnips, add them to soups and stews near the end of the cooking time.• Peeled and pared parsnips will turn dark when exposed to the air so cook them right away or hold them in water with a bit of lemon juice added.• Parsnips may be substituted for carrots in most recipes.• Herbs complementary to parsnips include basil, parsley, thyme, and tarragon.• 1 pound parsnips = 4 servings.• 1 pound = 4 to 6 small parsnips.• 1 pound = 2-1/2 cups diced, cooked parsnips.
RAW: Peel a parsnip, shred it, and add it to a salad. Its flavor is very mild and won't intrude on your greens, but you'll be adding nutritional benefits to your salad.
STEAMED, BOILED, BRAISED: Peel and thickly slice parsnips for adding to long-cooking bean or grain stews. Peel larger parsnips. Then slice and add to soups early in the cooking stage for a delicately sweet flavor surprise. Peel parsnips. Then slice and steam in a small amount of water for 10 to 12 minutes to use as a side dish.
SAUTEED: Peel and shred parsnips. Saute in a wok or skillet with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and a little water until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Dice peeled parsnips and carrots, and saute in a skillet with a little olive oil and water. Add a little lemon juice, wine, and seasonings and enjoy a tasty side dish.
ROASTED: Peel parsnips and slice in half lengthwise. Toss in a little extra virgin olive oil and spread out on a lightly oiled baking pan. Roast in a 400 oven for 25 to 35 minutes, turning frequently to avoid sticking and burning. Season if desired.

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