Lunch with Diane Morgan

Diane Morgan (right) and guest

Submitted by Dame Carol Haddix

Author Diane Morgan started thinking about writing a “Roots” cookbook after she bought a large celeriac (celery root) at a farmers market stand and a woman came up to her and said, “What’s that?” She explained to the woman what it was and how she was going to prepare it. After buying her celeriac, Morgan saw a pile of brown stick-like roots and found herself asking the farmer, “What’s that?” It then hit her. “We all need a guide to edible roots,” including the burdock roots in front of her.

Morgan recalled the story during a celebration of the publication of her beautifully researched and illustrated book at a NAHA restaurant luncheon sponsored by Chicagourmets and Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago. Green City Market helped supply the roots so dramatically displayed on each table and so dramatically used by Chef Carrie Nahabedian and staff in the bountiful four-course menu.

Dame Carol Haddix with Terry Kane

The meal, based on recipes from “Roots,” included housemade ginger ale and carrot margaritas to start; a rich parsnip and potato soup with a purple potato and bacon garnish; a beet salad with prosciutto, roasted persimmons, bitter greens, salsify and Roquefort; and a chicken fricassee with parsley root, golden chanterelles, farro salad, roasted rutabaga, Capriole Farm goat cheese and hazelnuts. By the time the dessert platter arrived, some of the guests said they were too stuffed to eat any more. But with one look at the unique arrangement of the malanga coconut balls, ginger panna cotta, ginger snaps, red velvet cupcake and lotus root upside-down cake, their objections vanished and everyone marveled about the versatility of root vegetables.

Morgan is the author of 17 other cookbooks and once was an assistant to Dame Alma Lach. Morgan now lives in Portland, Ore. Here is her recipe for the lotus root that topped the upside-down cake at the luncheon.

Dame Carrie Nahabedian and guest

Candied Lotus Root
Adapted from “Roots,” this recipe can be used for toppings, garnishes for ice cream or cakes. Makes about 3 cups including syrup.

14 ounces lotus root

For the syrup
1 1/2 cups each: granulated sugar, water
3 quarter-size slices fresh ginger
1 star anise pod
1 lemon peel strip, about 2 by 1/2 inch
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Fill medium saucepan two-thirds full of water. Trim ends, peel and cut lotus root into slices 1/16-inch thick. Place slices into the pan of water to prevent browning. Place pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and drain in a colander. Return slices to pan, fill again with water, and heat to a boil. Drain and repeat boiling and draining one more time.

2. For syrup, combine the sugar, water, ginger, star anise, lemon peel and juice in a large saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add lotus root, place over medium high heat and heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered partially, until syrup is thick and lotus root is crisp-tender, about 40 minutes.

3. Remove from heat, uncover and let cool to room temperature. Transfer syrup and slices to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. The candied root will keep for several months.

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