A Parsnip Twist by Susan Guillory

Growing up in the Deep South the word parsnip was not even a part of my vocabulary until I moved to London in the early 70’s. It was there that I was introduced to this very interesting tuber vegetable and have since grown to love its versatility.

When it comes to root vegetables in English cuisine, potatoes may be your first thought. Interestingly, parsnips were the root vegetable of choice until potatoes were introduced. The British also used them for making sugar before the introduction of beets and sugar cane. The parsnip was commonly referred to as a “white” carrot, but it belongs to the parsley family and is used very similarly. It’s worth mentioning that the end of vegetable’s name comes from the “nip” of flavor-sensation it brings.

This time of year parsnips are plentiful, but you might wonder how to use them in your cooking.  I find that substituting them for potatoes makes for a unique and unexpected flavor, along with the nutritional benefit of a reduced glycemic load. Parsnip “French fries” are a hit among children, and parsnip patties make a great dinner party appetizer or side dish.

With the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would take the traditionally potato-based Irish dish “colcannon,” and give it a parsnip twist:

Parsnip Colcannon
serves 4-6

2 cups parsnip, diced
2 cups turnip, diced
3 cups cabbage
2 T vegetable spread (olive oil doesn’t work)
2 cup hazelnut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Dice the parsnips and turnips. Melt the vegetable spread in a large pan over medium heat and add the parsnips and turnips. Stir and cover, allowing the vegetables to soften after about 20 minutes. Slice the cabbage into thin pieces, and add to the pan during the last 10 minutes. Check on the vegetables periodically and stir so they don’t burn. When they are soft enough to mash, remove from the heat and add the hazelnut milk (you can try other nut milks, but this one worked particularly well as a creamy addition). Mash all the vegetables together and season to taste.


Parsnip Patties
serves 4-6

1 large parsnip, scrubbed and grated (add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent browning)
1 large carrot, grated
1 small onion, cut in long, thin slivers
1 cup whole wheat or gluten free flour mix
¾ cup water
1 T baking powder
Salt to taste
1-2 cups vegetable cooking oil (but not olive as it will burn before getting hot enough for frying)

Aside from the oil, combine all the ingredients together and mix well. Adjust the amounts of flour and water until 2 inch round “patties” can easily be formed with your hands. Put approximately 1 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan and heat (but do not allow to smoke). Fry the patties for about 3 minutes on each side, watching carefully so they do not burn. Serve piping hot with soy sauce and/or your favorite hot sauce.


Raw Parsnip Salad

On a recent winter trip to France it was a delight to discover that this root vegetable is popular there too, and is often used raw in salads with lemon juice to prevent from browning. Along with some  added greens and nuts, these fresh and bright salads really bring out that “nip” sensation -- especially when eaten mindfully.