Monday, December 10, 2007

The Man Who Ate a Parsnip: Lidia Bastianich's Roasted Root Vegetables

My brother E is an enormous dude. Six feet, three inches tall, he snacks on snow tires and whole goats. His feet hang over the edges of most stairs, but only when he can cram his mile-wide shoulders into the stairwell in the first place. When E’s annoyed with our sister L, he doesn’t yell. He simply picks her up, throws her over his shoulder, and deposits her on the soft cushion of his choosing. It’s a subtle reminder that he's bigger than Russia, and just as capable of maintaining his ground when challenged by smaller, yappier foes.

E didn’t become four times my size by eating bean sprouts and tofu burgers. No, he’s the product of red meat and white starch. I shudder to think of his cholesterol level, but as long as he’s moving Volkswagon Beetles with his bare hands, I won’t question it. (Partly out of politeness and goodwill, but mostly so he doesn't tie my arms in a pretzel.)

Last year, to go with my sister’s Christmas lasagna, I made Lidia Bastianich’s Roasted Root Vegetables. Garlicky and hearty, they’re a good compliment to meat (both lean and not-so-lean), and a nice alternative to heavy, fatty foods like said lasagna. I was excited to serve a Lidia dish to my fam, and was utterly convinced E would pass up every other option for its rooty goodness.

Needless to say, E went straight for the lasagna.

BUT he also took a heaping helping of root veggies. Lo and behold, he kinda liked them, too. He must have. The man ate a leek, dangit! He even wolfed down a parsnip, without having any idea what it was. It was a Christmas miracle.

In the end, E will never be nominated for Veggie Lover of the Year (unless it applies to pizza toppings), but he’s okay with this recipe. It makes me wonder if eggplant, broccoli rabe, or fennel could be in his future. A sister can dream, can’t she?

(Note: The leeks were by far the most expensive items, and there’s a LOT of waste, but the leaves can be saved for chicken stock. In fact, I used ‘em for that very reason last night! BAM!)

Roasted Root Vegetables
Makes 6 gigantic servings
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich.

3 medium leeks (about 10 ounces)
2 large parsnips (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
3 large carrots (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
2 large, outer celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
6 small red or white new potatoes (about 3/4 pounds), cut in half
3 small yellow onions (about 6 ounces pound), peeled and cut in half through the core
20 large garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven 400°F. Line a large roasting pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray.

2) Chop the darker green stems off the leeks. (Discard or save for broth making.) Cut the remaining white parts in half from top to bottom. Cut off the root ends, "leaving enough of the root core intact to hold the leek halves together." Rinse thoroughly in cold water, making sure you get all the dirt out from between the leaves. (This is very, very important.)

3) In a huge bowl, combine all veggies, garlic, oil, and rosemary. Salt and pepper liberally to taste. Stir thoroughly to combine. Spread everything out in a single layer on the prepared pan. (Note: you may need two.) Roast about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are browned and tender. Serve hot.

Note: Parsnips can be very thick at the top, and very thin at the bottom. If this is the case with yours, slice the thicker parts into slimmer pieces. This will ensure even cooking.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
200 calories, 7.3 g fat, $0.92

3 medium leeks: 163 calories, 0.8 g fat, $1.50
8 oz parsnips: 170 calories, 0.7 g fat, $1.29
3 large carrots: 89 calories, 0.5 g fat, $0.30
2 large, outer celery stalks: 17 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.40
¾ pound small red potatoes: 245 calories, 0.5 g fat, $0.75
6 ounces yellow onion: 72 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.20
20 large garlic cloves: 89 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.60
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil: 358 calories, 40.5 g fat, $0.24
2 sprigs rosemary: negligible fat and calories, $0.20
Salt and freshly ground black pepper: negligible fat and calories, $0.03
TOTAL: 1203 calories, 7.3 g fat. 43.6 g fat, $5.51
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 200 calories, 7. 3 g fat, $0.92

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Meags said...

I have a really hard time finding Parsnips in Houston, TX. Any tips?

Kris said...

Hey Meags - I might increase the carrots and potatoes. A turnip or rutabaga might even be good substitutes, but I'm not positive.

Any ideas, readers?

Meredith said...

Funny, funny!

I bought parsnips at Fresh Market for our authentic Thanksgiving meal. The kids assumed they were white carrots. One small bag (about 5 parsnips) cost $2.50.

I was going to ask if that was a good price or where you would find a better price.

Daniel Koontz said...


I'm liking this recipe already. ;)

Casual Kitchen