Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Roots and Tubers and Squash, Oh My!

Root vegetables. Ahh, yes.
Let's include squash too, because as much as it's not a root vegetable, it is almost 100 percent root vegetable.

As delicious as stews full of starchy love are, and as much as you like roasted sweet potato and carrot soup, it's time to re-imagine these lovely tubers and roots.

It's time to branch out to new tubers and unfamiliar things that you don't even know taste good!

First up, sunchokes. Yeah these knobbly little roots are excellent. They may not be on your radar, but chefs are snatching them up and using them for all sorts of things. Smoking them over hay, making them into sauerkraut, crisping them in cubes to make 'croutons.'

Sunchokes are decidedly better mid-January after cold weather has officially set in.

Check out this post by Leda Meredith to learn all you need to know about sunchokes and get a great pickled sunchoke and mushroom recipe. Pickle! Mushroom! Yeah, you know I had to share that one.

Creamy Sunchoke soup with Chevril Oil and Sunchoke Crisps - this one is worth it just for the sunchoke crisps! Seriously. You might need to make those all the time.

Carmalized Sunchokes with Beet Confit - Much simpler than the name may imply. Added bonus of using the oven which with make your place warm and toasty, smelling of sweet beets and sunchokes.

Sunchoke, Apple and Fennel Salad - this is for those that like something crisp, refreshing, sweet and winter-y!

Alright, so you went to the farmer's market and got sunchokes and ate them to your hearts content. You discovered something delicious with minimal prodding from me. Excellent. Now it's time to move on to the roots in the supermarket that you only see old Hispanic ladies buying.

Yuca AKA cassava AKA manioc AKA tapioca is a starchy tuber you should be more familiar with. Maybe you've had it deep fried like fries at your favorite Spanish restaurant, or maybe you've had some awesome bubble tea with tapioca balls in it. A versatile tuber that a lot of people reading this post have never made themselves. (Or maybe not! Tell me if you've cooked it before!)

There is so much to say about this widely eaten root, I think it would be more appropriate to give you recipes and some general direction.

How to prepare! Seems pretty self explanatory, but this slide show will help you out if you're having some troubles.

Puchero - This pork, beef, and chicken soup is the kind of hearty love child you want to have with your kitchen.

Fried Yuca! - Straight up delicious. Follow the recipe for the spicy mayo as well.

Cassava with Garlic and Citrus - This preparation is fantastic and easy. Citrus is in season right now, so go out an try a few different kinds. Excellent side dish for roast meats!

So pretty much, you've got nothing to lose - except those bourgeois potatoes you keep in some dark corner of your pantry or fridge.

Here are two easy recipes for roots and tubers you may see during your starch investigation.

Roasted Batata with lime-cumin butter - check this one out if you find batata!

Yautia - Boiled with ancho chilies.

Now granted, your neighborhood market may not look like the ones in these pictures. But chances are that they have quite a few starchy things you may normally pass over.

Reach out and try one. Most of them are super cheap anyway. Take one home. Boil it until tender and give it a taste. You'll have a better understanding of the flavor profile.

These pictures are from local Caribbean markets near my house. These particular markets on Flatbush avenue, especially near Church Ave.

You won't know you like them until you try them.
Worst comes to worst, everything tastes good with butter and garlic on top.


Jon Antis said...

William, how about cassava chips like at TJ's? There's gotta be a recipe for those. Also on the topic of other root veggies, rutabaga's are delish!

William Widmaier said...

Those chips are amazing! Hate to say it, but they are so much easier to buy than to make. You've got to use a mandolin to slice them thin enough to make a crisp chip.

And I am totally on the same page as you with the rutabaga. An underutilized vegetable with a sweet disposition and a lot of versatility!

Thanks Jon!