Saturday, January 12, 2013

The vegetable chronicles

The checkout clerk at Hy-Vee Thursday asked if these were ginger root --- shocking. So as anyone passionate about parsnips would have, I tried to educate: No, this is the queen of root vegetables, related to the carrot, but more flavorful, sweeter and more nutritious. Cold soil is needed to fully develop flavor, so they're best if left in the ground until just before the ground begins to freeze.

I'm not sure the lesson stuck, but one does what one can for clueless younger generations.

I brought the parships home to be prepared the way my mother and grandfather did --- peel off the wax coating (added to prevent dessication) along with the outer skin, cut into similar-sized pieces to ensure even cooking, parboil five to seven minutes to soften, then sautee gently in melted butter untill they begin to brown and caramelize. Wonderful!

My mother and her father used to store parsnips over the winter heeled into shallow trenches in loose garden soil, topped by a mixture of straw and soil --- excavating as needed. I'm sure I've written before about the winter of heavy snow during which Mother lost track of the trench and we endured a season of parsniplessness.


I also brought home a mess of brussels sprouts Thursday --- and about these, the produce manager should have been deeply ashamed. Moldy and splotchy outer leaves, spots in some instances penetrating deep into the tiny cabbage-like sprouts.

You've got to cut that guy some slack however, considering the combat-zone conditions of the produce aisle these days during major construction. A wall of black  plastic sheeting backs the little basket where sprouts are kept --- and there is no light. But by pulling the sprouts one by one out into the light I finally found a halfway decent looking batch.

I don't really like brussels sprouts --- but keep trying because it seems like I should.

The current strategy is to shuck off the outer leaves and trim the stem end, then split lengthwise and parboil for about five minutes. Once drained, I toss the result with a little kosher salt in a mixture of olive oil and garlic that has been roasting in a baking pan in a 400-degree oven while the sprouts boiled.

Once the sprouts have been coated and arranged in a single layer, I sprinkle over them a mixture of grated parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs, then dot with butter and bake for 15 minutes or so.

The result isn't bad. Plus --- when re-heated for a second day (either in foil or a small buttered casserole), the flavor actually improves. And I feel righteous while eating, having given brussels sprouts another chance.

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