Sunday, March 21, 2010

Getting to the Root

Root vegetables are comforting. I think I'm genetically coded at the most basic level to say "yes" and "good" when it comes to foods that store well and taste good. All I know for sure is that I like root vegetables. Potatoes. Carrots. Parsnips. Turnips. Onions. And so on.

Spring has come to the northeastern US, and there are still no green vegetables above the ground. Even the alliums are silent. But what we do still have are the root vegetables, noble sorts, who have kept well over the past hard and cold months of snow, ice, and rain.

Every Thursday evening, I stop to visit at a farmer's stall. He is from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and every Thursday, he's at Penn Center/Suburban Station, in downtown Philadelphia. He sells in-season produce and beef. He also sells free-range eggs (from happy chickens, my mom, Anne, would say). I buy from him. He's Daryl, from Rineer Family Farms. I like to support those who put heart and soul into the food they produce for sale.

This past Thursday, I bought beets, carrots, parsnips, and eggs. This post is about beets and carrots.

Carrot salad is a comforting food. Some like sweet, mayo laden carrot salad. I like mine more piquant. So here's a carrot salad I will serve tonight. I made up this recipe, and I'm not an expert. So feel free to experiment yourself!

Barbara's Carrot Salad

1 pound carrots, shredded.
1 lemon, squeezed.
1 small apple, chopped, with peel on.
1 stalk celery
2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (I used peanut)
2 tablespoons sugar (more or less)

Shred the carrots. Put in bowl. Cut up the celery and put in bowl. Cut up the apple. Squeeze the lemon. Swish the apple up in the lemon juice, and add the sugar. Put the apple mixture in with the carrots. Add the oil, salt, and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate. (The apple will not get brown if you do the lemon juice treatment...the alternative is to use a Cortland apple, which do not oxidize brown).

Beet Salad

I had a beet salad at a catered work lunch, and I liked it so much, I was inspired to make my own.

Here's how. I adapted a recipe from the Craig Claiborne NY Times Cookbook, which I have had for years. My version was published in 1990. I use this cookbook a lot.

Boil around 2 pounds of beets whole. This will take around 4o minutes. Then, after they've cooled, peel and chop them. Peel 1/2 a red onion. Cut it into slices. Put the onion into the bowl. Add vinegar to taste, salt and pepper, and a little vegetable oil. Also, add some spices, such as clove or allspice. Chill and serve when chilled down.

Root vegetable salads seem perfect for this time of year. Not hot and hearty and long stewed, but...light and rooty.

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