Healthy Living

Chefs share recipes that help you get down to the root of things

Pickled carrots with mint and pickled fennel with orange. (Liz Zabel/The Gazette)
Pickled carrots with mint and pickled fennel with orange. (Liz Zabel/The Gazette)

Dig in. We’ve uncovered some of the best recipes that feature root vegetables.

Michael Elliott, the executive chef at Hearth Restaurant in Evanston, Ill., said, “I love root vegetables. I really like to embrace the seasons, and root vegetables are workhorses. They are troopers, and they’re all delicious in their own right.”

Elliott uses malted milk in a parsnip puree he makes for his short ribs. The malty flavor, he said, helps discover another dimension to the vegetable.

“It adds this really nice toasted flavor to the parsnips,” Elliott said.

For crunch, he makes parsnip chips. Parsnips get peeled thinly and fried crispy.

“They add a nice crunch and that really nice parsnip flavor to the short rib,” Elliott said. “We really like parsnips because they have that carrot flavor but intensified and much more nuanced.”

Hakurei turnips are the new darlings. Glazed, they look almost like a pearl onion, with a tiny tuft of green left on top. Leaving a bit of the top on adds a pop of color and some texture.

Elliott glazes Hakurei turnips in vegetable stock, olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and a little sugar.

“It gives great aromatic flavor,” Elliott said. The olive oil gives them their shiny coat. The sugar gives the glaze some substance. Glazing the turnips, rather than boiling them in water, helps them maintain their consistency.

Shopping for root vegetables doesn’t take much thought.

“They really do not ever over-ripen, since they are used to sustaining themselves over cold months, so a turnip will really last a long time in storage, and still be good to cook with,” he said.


But, he says, the flavor will decrease with age, which is one reason why pioneers — who long ago sustained themselves through the winter months with a stockpile of root vegetables — looked so forward to spring.

For cooking root vegetables to the desired consistency, Elliott suggested testing them out just like a cake, using the old toothpick-in-the-center technique. If the toothpick comes out clean, they’re a go.

“But nothing will ever replace tasting your food throughout the cooking process,” he said.

Elliott also pickles carrots in a bread-and-butter pickling liquid.

Like other root vegetables, radishes pack a punch of nutrients.

“Radishes are good sources of vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid,” said Northbrook, Ill.-based integrative nutritionist and registered dietitian Karen Raden.

At Maevery Public House in Lake Bluff, Ill., Chef William Wagener makes parsnip puree with Gruyere cheese in place of mashed potatoes in his Guinness-braised tenderloin shepherd’s pie.

“The texture is like a smooth mashed potato, and the parsnips add a surprising sweetness, which brings an outstanding introduction to the Guinness-braised tenderloin and veggies. Star anise adds extra depth and keeps your guest wondering ... ‘what spice did you incorporate?’”

And chefs urge cooks to waste not: Work the tops of turnips, carrots, beets and other root vegetables into pesto or chop them up into a chiffonade that can be sprinkled on top of canapes or used as garnishes for other seasonal dishes.

At NaKorn in Evanston, Ill., Chef Monika Tantichula makes taro chicken by marinating the bird in lemongrass-infused coconut milk and then flash-frying it. The chicken is served with chili-peanut gastrique and puree made from taro, an Asian root vegetable with beautiful lavender-colored flecks in its pulp. Tantichula cooks one cup of shredded taro with coconut milk and a pinch of salt and pepper. She mixes it all together and mashes it like mashed potatoes.


8 Hakurei turnips, peeled and cut in half

1 cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic

2 thyme sprigs

1 pinch sugar

1 bay leaf


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Add all ingredients to a pan. Add a lid. Cook until turnips are fork tender. Take turnips out, and reduce liquid until it produces a glaze. Cool quickly.

— Michael Elliott, Hearth Restaurant


3 medium-sized parsnips

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon malted milk powder

Add all ingredients to a pot and cook until parsnips are tender and liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Remove bay leaf, and rest of ingredients to a blender and blend on high. Season to taste.

— Michael Elliott, Hearth Restaurant


5 pounds parsnips

1 pound unsalted butter

2 star anise

1.5 pounds Gruyere cheese

Peel parsnips and cut into chunks. Boil in water with star anise until fork-tender. Meanwhile, melt one pound of butter and grated Gruyere cheese. When parsnips are done, drain water and place into a mixer with the whisk attachment. Mix well with butter and Gruyere.

— William Wagener,

Maevery Public House


1 cup apple cider vinegar

3 cups water

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

4 juniper berries

2 all spice

2 cloves

4 carrots, peeled, sliced very thin

Add first five ingredients to a pot and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, put everything else other than the carrots in a cheesecloth sachet so they flavor but don’t get in the way later. Place carrots in a container with a lid. When liquid is hot, pour liquid over carrots and add the sachet. Ensure that all the carrots are under the liquid. Let cool at room temperature. Once cool, place lid on top and put in cooler. They will be ready the next day. Always remember to use a spoon to get the carrots out of the liquid, as putting your hands in the container could ruin the pickles.

— Michael Elliott, Hearth Restaurant

(c) 2018 Chicago Tribune

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