Cooking Eating Dining Sharing

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cooking with New Ingredients

Winter Roots

I don't know about you, but winter sure seems long this year!  With all of the rain, the fog, and the general malaise that this weather has brought, I am ready for a trip to the sun!

I have spent countless hours indoors and have inevitably ended up in front of the stove.   Most recently, cooking and testing a Deborah Madison Stew recipe for Oak Hill Farm's newsletter.   I wanted to add an ingredient that I have never cooked with before, Burdock Root.   I learned that it is from the Thistle family and has a root that grows to about 7-10 inches.  It is woody, like a tuber and has a mild flavor, but huge health benefits.   It is known as a diuretic and for flushing the system of excess water.  It is a netralizer and helps to eliminate poisons in the system.  As far as root vegetables go, this one holds its own.

Root vegies in general are low in calories and bursting with vitamins and minerals that are good for us.  Most vitamins are in the skin, so wash them well and keep the skin on!   Carrots are a rich source of betacarotene and antioxidants, which help fight free-radicals.  Sweet Potatoes contain more vitamin E than any other food and is low in fat.  Parsnips contain daily fiber requirements for women and add a sweetness to soups, stews and are delicious roasted.  Beets (or Beetroot in Europe) are full of folic acid and folates and is reportedly important for a baby's brain during gestation.  So eat lots of beets if you are pregnant!  What could be more important?

Winter Stew with Mashed Potatoes, Celery Root and Lentils in a Wine Reduction

This stew seems long, but actually it consists of making a sauce, stirring some vegetables in a stew pot and making mashed potatoes with celeriac.  It is worth the trouble.  If you want to skip the lentils, go ahead, but they do add a nice texture.

Braised Root Vegetables’ with Black Lentils and Red Wine Sauce* combines the wintry comfort of root vegetables and earthy lentils with the lightness of whipped potatoes and celery root.  This would be a delicious accompaniment to Osso Bucco, or Roast Chicken.  It is a perfect Valentine’s Day dinner or to serve on a cold night with a fire and good friends.  Serve with a nice peppery wine, like a Syrah.  Serves 4-6  BON APPETITE!

 The Red Wine Sauce:
1/3 c dried porcini mushrooms

1 TBS olive Oil

1 LG onion, diced

1 LG Carrot, diced

5 mushrooms or mushroom trimmings, parsnips tips and cores, from veggies below (to add flavor to wine sauce)

4 garlic cloves mashed

Aromatics: 2 thyme sprigs and1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste

2 TBS flour

2 cups Merlot

1 TBS butter

Cover the porcini mushrooms with 2 cups boiling water and let rest while absorbing the liquid, for about 30 minutes.  Heat the oil in a wide soup pot.  Add the vegetables, garlic and aromatics.  Cook over medium-high heat stirring occasionally, until vegetables are well browned, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Stir in the flour and then pour in the wine plus the dried mushrooms and their liquid.  Vigorously scrape the bottom of the pot to work the juices into the sauce, then lower heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes.  Stirring occasionally.  Strain the vegetables and return the liquid to the pan and simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 c, about 15-20 minutes.  Season to taste and whisk in the butter.  Add a tablespoon of sugar if it is too acidic.  Set aside.  (Please note:  you can make this a day or two in advance)

The Lentils:
1/2 cup Beluga or French green Lentils

3 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

Boil the Lentils in the salted water until soft, approximately 30 minutes.  Drain and reserve. 

The Vegetables:

2 fingers of Burdock Root (approx. 5” long)

14 yellow pearl onions, peeled

2 medium Parsnips, quartered lengthwise

3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise
6 small mushrooms, halved

4 small Jerusalem artichokes, quartered

1 TBS olive oil

2 TBS butter

salt and pepper to taste

aromatics: thyme and bay

Slice the ends off the Pearl onions, using a paper towel, wipe off the paper skins.  Sauté the pearl onions in the olive oil and butter.  Add the Jerusalem artichokes, and burdock root until onions are browned, approximately 15 minutes.  Then add the parsnips, carrots and mushrooms and the aromatic herbs.  Sauté for another 20 minutes.  When the wine sauce is reduced, add the vegetables to the sauce and let simmer for about 40 minutes.  Stir occasionally so the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Celery Root and Potato Puree’:

1 small head celery root,

10 small- medium creamy potatoes; Red Potatoes, quartered

3 Tbs. Chopped Parsley

2 TBS butter

salt and pepper to taste

While the vegetables are simmering in the wine sauce, quarter the potatoes.  Slice the thin skin off the celeriac, then slice into the same size pieces as the potatoes.  Boil in salted water until pierced with a knife, it comes out clean.  Reserve the cooking liquid from the potatoes and celeriac.  Put the potatoes and celeriac in a Cuisinart, mixer or hand mash them together with salt and pepper to taste, 2 TBS butter, and a little water from the pot.  Mash until well whipped.  Reserve until ready to use.

When the vegetables are simmered long enough in the wine sauce, they will be easily pierced with a sharp knife.  Put a dollop of the potato and celeriac puree next to the lentils and then add the vegetable stew on top of the potatoes and lentils.  Bon Appetite! 

*This recipe is inspired by Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors.  Contact her at her website at

Burdock Root is available right now at Oak Hill Farm’s ( Friday Market in Sonoma accross from the Depot.

Tricia O’Brien has been a caterer in the Bay Area for over 20 years.  She lives in Glen Ellen with her husband and two cats.   You can email her directly at

Read more at Suite101: Root Vegetables-Health Benefits: Root vegetables are delicious and full of essential nutrients


nanisteele said...

Sounds absolutely scrumptious my friend!! Keep up the writing and good work. Romney

Anonymous said...

Yum, can you come over and make this for me?!