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The unlovely parsnip

February 8, 2010

The parsnip may look like–and be treated like–the odd, overgrown, albino cousin of the carrot, but its stronger and less sweet flavor should not be dismissed.  This unlovely root vegetable, which, like cruciferous vegetables, improves in flavor after a frost.  Its storage properties are superior to those of the sugary carrot.  And what other storage vegetable does it pair perfectly with?  Potatoes, of course!

What do you do with stored root vegetables that are still half a step from stew-only?  Mash them!  Remember the yogurt mashed potatoes?  Replace half the potatoes with two large parsnips and ditch the garlic.  Pare away any bad spots, soft spots, and bruises and proceed as before.  The parsnips jazz up the potatoes and prove equal to the tang of the yogurt.  I omitted the fennel seeds in this mashed spud recipe because the mild sweetness of the parsnips provides more complexity.

I served mashed parsnips and potatoes with fried cheese.  Yum.  Cut your cheese, cover in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs, and fry in a hot pan liberally coated in oil.  The cheese fries quickly, so be sure to turn them.  Eat immediately after frying.

What cheese should you use?  Well, I brought home and Armenian string cheese from Atkins Farms (it was on sale . . . I just to try it!).  The cheese had nigella seeds in it, which I’d never tried before.  Interesting.  The bit I tried in pasta didn’t really shine, and the dry, almost rubbery texture made me think it would hold up for frying.  And it did!

Remember to keep the heat high or the cheese will take too long to fry, ruining the shape and letting bits ooze out.  I imagine a dry mozzarella (not in water) would work well as a string cheese substitute.  Oh, and don’t use the kid’s snack version of string cheese.  What I bought is a string cheese because it is pulled into ropes, not because you can pull off strings of it.

There is one more part to this unusual meal: broiled red cabbage and onions.  I used half a head of red cabbage, halved, and one and half onions, also halved.  I tossed these in a casserole dish with several tablespoons of butter, a sprinkling of salt, and a sprinkling of mustard seeds, coriander, and peppercorns.  Broil at 400°F until cabbage is tender and onions are meltingly soft.

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