It's that time of year when winter's star vegetables wear out their welcome. Parsnips? Been there. Turnips? Done that. Potatoes, mashed, hashed, roasted or fried?
Check, check, check, yawn.
In short, it's time to start mixing it up a bit in the root vegetable department.
"With root vegetables, they're all basically kind of sweet, and they all have similar dense textures, so they're very easily compatible with one another," says Deborah Madison, author of the award-winning "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone."
"Roasted root vegetables are great because they stay distinct. Rutabagas would be lovely cooked with potatoes that you're going to mash because it would give (them) this delicate yellow color — and the flavor would be lovely, too."
Soups such as roasted Jerusalem artichoke bisque with a touch of potato and leek are a good starting point, Madison says.
"You roast (turnips, carrots or Jerusalem artichokes) and their flavors concentrate so much and you get a little caramelization — and then go ahead and put them in a soup."
Looking to enliven the humble mash? Consider celery root.
"Potatoes make a great base, but then when you add celery root, maybe a little bit of celery too — it gives it a freshness and a pale green color, and maybe stir in some minced celery leaves at the end," says Madison.
"Potatoes with any of these vegetables are really good. With parsnips. With turnips. Beets you'd want to be wary of because it would make a horrible color."
On the salad front, Madison advocates mixes ranging from the traditional to the unexpected.
"Rutabagas have this lovely, buttery yellow, and turnips stay so white and then you have carrots, which are orange," says Madison.
"I cut all of those into a julienne, and I just blanch them and toss them with olive oil, lemon, just a little chopped parsley. Things you have around. And it looks like spring! You just look at it and it makes you happy."
As a general rule, vegetables that are in season together taste good together, and that certainly goes for the roots, Madison says.
They also mix well with Brussels sprouts and cabbages.
She recently went through her refrigerator, pulled out the root vegetables she had on hand — beets, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, celery root, that stray parsnip — diced them, tossed them with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and roasted them.
"Oh! They were so good. They're kind of irresistible. If you have some rosemary or herbs, even better," she says.
Author Deborah Madison offers some tips for dealing with roots.
•Cooking with leftovers is often easier than starting from scratch; if you're baking sweet potatoes, make extra and refrigerate.
•Thyme is a great herb for root vegetables; its earthy flavor grounds the roots' sweetness.
•When roasting, consider cutting your roots into bigger chunks. This allows for more caramelization (browning).
•Winter turnips and rutabagas have tough skins. Peel off about 1/8 inch before cooking.
•Know your roots: Parsnips roast more quickly than carrots so if you're cooking them together, cut the parsnips into larger pieces.
Roasted root vegetables
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
-- This is plenty for two and maybe more. Vegetables do shrink as they roast and the moisture cooks off. Adapted from "What We Eat When We Eat Alone," by Deborah Madison.
2 or 3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, cut into large chunks
1 russet potato or several fingerlings, cut into chunks
1 onion, cut into thick wedges with root end intact
1 head garlic, cloves separated
1 turnip, peeled, cut into wedges
1 large parsnip, peeled, cut into 2-inch rounds, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place vegetables in a large, shallow baking dish or sheet pan in a single layer. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat.
Roast, turning every 15 minutes, until the vegetables are caramelized (golden brown) and tender when pierced with a knife, 45-55 minutes.
Per serving: 357 calories, 34% of calories from fat, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 56 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 641 mg sodium, 9 g fiber.
Roasted Jerusalem artichoke bisque with sprouts
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Makes: 7-8 cups
-- From "Vegetable Soups From Deborah Madison's Kitchen."
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, cut into 1/3-inch slices
1 potato, peeled, sliced
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 small onion or leek, thinly sliced
5 cups water
1/4 cup whipping cream
Sunflower seed sprouts or micro greens, optional
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the tubers, potato and garlic with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 13- by -9-inch baking dish; roast until the tubers are browned in places, 45 minutes. Remove garlic skins.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil in a soup pot over medium heat; add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 cup of the water.
Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes. Stir in remaining water; scrape up any browned bits. Reduce heat to simmer; cover. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in small batches in blender or food processor. Stir in the cream; season to taste. Serve in wide bowls; garnish with sprouts.
Per serving: 123 calories, 57% of calories from fat, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 151 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
Three beet caviar with endive and goat cheese
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
-- Adapted from "Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America's Farmers Markets."
If your market offers the opportunity to make three different caviars using golden beets in one, red in another, and Chioggia in the third, go ahead and use all three kinds. They look like jewels. Serve them in separate mounds, along with a mound of chopped endive and another of goat cheese, but encourage people to mix everything together at the table. Mixed beforehand, the red beets will stain the salad red.
6 beets, 2 golden, 2 Chioggia, 2 red, or all one color
1 small red onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons white wine or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or chervil
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, sugar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 heads Belgian endive, sliced
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
Trim beet stems down to 1 inch; leave roots on. Place beets in a steamer over boiling water; cover. (Do each color of beet separately.) Steam until tender-firm when pierced with a knife, 25-45 minutes, depending on their size. Cool; slip off the skins.
Cut beets into chunks. Place in food processor; pulse 6-8 times until finely chopped, but not pureed (or, dice them by hand).
Meanwhile, mix the onion, vinegar, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, sugar and pepper to taste in a bowl. Toss each of the three types of beets with a third of the onion mixture in separate bowls. Chill.
Arrange mounds of the beets, a mound of endive, and a smaller one of goat cheese on each plate. Drizzle a little olive oil over the endive and cheese. Toss everything together before eating.
Per serving: 133 calories, 53% of calories from fat, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 357 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.
Sweet potato and coconut custard with toasted coconut
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 30 minutes
-- Adapted from "Seasonal Fruit Desserts From Orchard, Farm and Market," to be published in April.
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
3/4 cup light brown or muscovado sugar
1 can (15 ounces) coconut milk plus milk to make 2 cups
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup wide strips of coconut
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon rum, or to taste
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potato in medium bowl; mix in sugar. Beat in eggs. Beat in coconut milk mixture, vanilla and salt. Pour the pudding mixture into a 6-cup baking dish.
Put the dish in a larger pan; pour boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until set, 1 hour, 30 minutes. Cool.
Put the coconut shavings on a baking sheet; toast until crisp and browned, about 2 minutes. Whip cream in medium bowl to soft peaks; add rum. Whip to stiff peaks. Serve pudding with whipped cream; garnish with toasted coconut.
Per serving: 461 calories, 57% of calories from fat, 30 g fat, 23 g saturated fat, 136 mg cholesterol, 43 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 208 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.