Cooking Vegetables: Carrots, Beets & Turnips |

Rustic Roots: Fall Veggies Take Center Stage

The air is cooler, the leaves are turning yellow, and our stomachs are starting to cry out for heartier fare to fuel us through these chilly autumn days. As summer gives way to fall, some of the tastiest and freshest inspirations for your seasonal menus can be easily found at nearby farm stands and farmers' markets. Root vegetables, those deeply-hued, nourishing treats that are unearthed this time of year, offer an array of delicious options for both amateur and professional chefs.

Crispy Carrots

Probably one of the most overused and under appreciated of the root veggies, carrots can be so much more than filler on a vegetable platter. As their bright orange color suggests, carrots pack a nutritious punch of vitamins A, C, and K, in addition to their appealing crunch and sweet flavor. While most commercial carrot varieties are similar in appearance, this root comes in varieties ranging from white to deep burgundy. If you're lucky enough to find a source for heirloom carrots, try glazing them for an attractive, multicolored side dish. Carrots can also be the base for any number of soups, salads, and slaws.

Bring on the Beets!

This distinctive member of the root family is bold in both color and flavor. While the deep purple flesh of the beet is off-putting to some chefs, with the right techniques you can prepare beets without permanently staining your kitchen (and yourself).

  • Wash beets gently, without breaking the skin. Prepare them with the skin intact to retain flavor and valuable nutrients and avoid a messy peeling process.
  • Try baking or roasting whole, small beets. This method of preparation enhances their flavor and requires minimal handling.
  • Rub lemon juice and salt on your hands before washing with soap and water to remove beet stains.

Roast beets are delicious by themselves, but can be combined with goat cheese and arugula for a memorable salad. Borsht, an Eastern European beet-based soup could be the perfect first course for your next dinner party or the base for a simple meal with friends.

Try Some Turnips

What these pale roots lack in color, they make up for in flavor! The entire turnip plant, from root to greens, offers plenty of options for an adventurous cook. Mashed turnips alone, or blended with potatoes, is comfort food at its best. If you'd like to try something more gourmet, turnips lend themselves well to gratins, especially when combined with other roots such as pearl onions or sweet potatoes. Baby turnips, greens and all, can be braised for a beautiful accompaniment to almost any main dish.

Rustic Roots: Using Root Vegetables to their Full Potential

Once you've gotten the hang of preparing soups, salads, slaws, and sides using common root vegetables, experiment with other roots such as parsnip, rutabaga, or celeriac. Or try an easy and popular dish that shows off the best of this season's vegetables:

  • Wash any combination of root vegetables and cut into 1" cubes.
  • Toss veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake at 425 degrees until tender, about 40 minutes.

Roasted root vegetables are both filling and flavorful--sure to please every palate. Better still, this colorful dish offers a perfect opportunity to compare the subtle differences in flavor and texture of each root. Bon appetit!