Roots: The Definitive Compendium

Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes

by Diane Morgan
photos by Antonis Achilleos

Facts: Chronicle Books, 431 pages, $40.00 (or Amazon $23.04)
Photos: 57 Recipes: Over 225
Give To: Passionate home cooks; vegetarian cooks; curious cooks.

Diane Morgan set out to write a reference book for root vegetables, the familiar and not so familiar. The lady is an over-achiever.

Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes will guide you from the much loved potato to vegetables familiar only to serious cooks like burdock root, galangal and malanga. She introduces root vegetables that would make my vegetable peeler cower in fear.

Walking the produce aisle of any ethnic market heightens curiosity and raises questions. A sign says “wasabi” and you wonder how it’s transformed from looking like a dried up pickle with acne to that fabulous paste. An artichoke is easily recognized. But identifying a Jerusalem artichoke, which is neither from Jerusalem nor a type of artichoke, is more of a challenge. And how about one of the most unkempt of vegetables: the celery root?

Morgan educates. Information provided for each vegetable begins with origin, history and lore, varieties and nutritional data. Here’s where that ugly celery root becomes more appealing. Not only does it provide vitamins, minerals, and lots of dietary fiber, but a cup of this tummy-filling cooked veggie is only 42 calories.

And thank you, Diane, for including cautionary notes. If you’ve never heard of malanga then chances are good that you wouldn’t know to always wear disposable surgical gloves when peeling and to never eat it raw. It seems that oxalic-acid crystals irritate both exposed skin and the throat!

The great thing about root vegetables is that unlike summer squash, tomatoes, or even eggplant, they don’t mind being a guest in your home for a while. If you overlook them on the counter or forget they’re in your vegetable bin, they don’t decide you’re unworthy and quickly turn into a mushy mess. On this note, Morgan also includes storage information.

The recipes are interesting and varied. Consider appetizers of Pancetta-Wrapped Baby Turnips, Red Curry and Galangal Grilled Chicken Drumettes, or Shrimp and Jicama Ceviche. Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Salsify, Carrots, Chickpeas, and Cranberries will be a colorful centerpiece/entrée for the few moments before guests dig in. But most surprising are the desserts: Red Velvet Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream, Ginger Panna Cotta or Three Layer Parsnip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting!

I was torn in my selection of a recipe exemplifying this book because her recipe Carrot Ribbons with Sorrel Pesto and Crumbled Goat Cheese is not only delicious but is absolute eye candy. However, in the interest of nudging people to try other root vegetables, rutabaga was the winner. Morgan identified it as the most underrated of root vegetables with the ability to take on many different flavors. (Beside that, children love saying rutabaga, rutabaga, rutabaga).

Diane Morgan will be at NAHA Saturday October 20th.  To read more and buy tickets for the all roots luncheon, click here. (This book went into reprint the day it was released!)

To see when and where Diane Morgan will be on tour with Roots, click here.

Rutabaga Hash with Onions and Crisp Bacon
(photo © by Antonis Achilleos)

Make this hash for a weekend brunch or as an easy weeknight supper. I like to serve it with a tossed green salad or a steamed vegetable and a crusty loaf of bread. Pass Tabasco or other hot sauce at the table; the vinegary, smoky flavor of hot sauce complements the rutabagas, bacon, and chiles. Poach eggs to place on top of this hearty hash. The runny soft-cooked eggs are a perfect accompaniment.

Serves 4-6

6 slices bacon, about 5 ounces/140 g, cut into 3/4-in/2-cm pieces
2 pound/910 g rutabagas, ends trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/2-in/12-mm dice
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-in/12-mm dice
2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into slices 1/4-in/6 mm thick
1 Anaheim chile, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-in/12-mm dice
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce for serving

1. In a 12-inch/30.5-cm frying pan, preferably cast iron, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

2. Pour off all but 1/4 cup/60 ml of the fat from the pan. Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the rutabagas and onion, and sauté, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring once, for 7 minutes to steam the rutabagas. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are browned at the edges, about 1 minute longer.

3. Add the celery and both chiles, stir briefly, and then cover and cook for 3 minutes longer. Uncover the pan and add the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rutabagas are fork-tender and the celery is crisp but not raw tasting. Fold in the cilantro and bacon. Serve immediately, garnished with additional cilantro. Pass the hot-pepper sauce at the table.

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