Countless times you’ve reached for the lettuce, grabbed some carrots and inspected the asparagus, all the while ignoring a far more interesting item. This other vegetable was there the whole time in the produce section also hoping for some attention, but too often it gets lost among the staples. On a slow day it might get a quizzical look before you move on to fetch the milk.
It’s the parsnip, and it deserves some respect. Parsnips are a root vegetable, and though they’re available year round, winter is their time to shine. If they were orange, you might mistake them for carrots. Similar in shape and related to that other veggie, parsnips are a pale tan in color. Taste-wise, they are a bit sweeter, and texturally not quite as crisp.
They’re also delicious. Parsnips can be eaten raw, but with a woody center they don’t offer the satisfying crunch of a carrot. Impart some heat, though, and things get far more interesting. Because of their soft, almost creamy texture when cooked, parsnips can deftly be inserted into a batch of mashed potatoes, boiled along with the spuds. They can also be simmered in soups.
I prefer to roast them, either alone or with carrots and onions. The dry heat of the oven helps intensify parsnips’ flavor and adds visual appeal via the browning effect that culinarians and “Jeopardy” contestants know as the Maillard reaction.