Food – Getting in touch with your Roots

We are all familiar with carrots and potatoes, and anyone can crack open a can of beets, but have you tried any of these “less usual” root veggies?

Daikon is also known as the oriental radish, East Asian radish, Chinese radish, and icicle radish. The word Daikon derives from two Japanese words: dai - large and kon - root. Its roots are large, often 2 -4 inches around and 6 - 20 inches long. It has three distinct shapes - spherical, oblong and cylindrical.

You can be eaten raw in salads or on relish trays, stir-fried, grilled, pickled, baked, boiled or broiled. It is easily exchangeable with the common radish. To prepare a daikon, peel the skin as you would a carrot and chop. The leaves are also edible.

When cooking daikon, the Japanese use water in which rice has been washed or add a bit of rice bran to the water to keep the daikon white.

When adding daikon to relish trays, peel into thin chips, then dip in ice water to crisp and curl the chip.

Jicama is characterized as a cross between an apple and a potato. It comes from Mexico and South America where it is sold as street food, with a squeeze of lime and shake of hot chili powder. It is a cousin of the sweet potato, also called the yam bean root. Treat it like a potato, but don’t eat the skin. Jicama can also be eaten raw with guacamole or veggie dip.

Parsnips look like big white carrots, and can be substituted for a carrot in most dishes. They are best roasted in the oven, but can also be steamed and mashed like potatoes. Peeled parsnips will turn dark, so cook them right away or place them in lemon water. Add them to soups near the end of the cooking time.

Parsnip Crisps

Adapted from Alton Brown

2 quarts peanut oil

1 lb parsnips

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat peanut oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven over high heat 370° to 375°. Wash the parsnips, and using a vegie peeler or mandolin, slice into chips.

Fry the chips in small batches until lightly browned and crisp, about 1 minute. Drain on a rack or paper towel, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Radishes are good for more than veggie trays! The entire radish plant is edible. But the greens last only a few days, so eat them right away. To store radishes, separate the root from the green, and place the roots in a plastic bag in the frig.

Braised Radishes

Adapted from Rachael Ray

1 lb radishes

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 Tbs butter

1 small onion

2 Tbs sugar

1 Tb red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Trim the tops and roots off the radishes, and thinly slice the onion. Place all the ingredients in a skillet. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover the pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook 10 to 12 minutes and if the stock has not cooked away, remove radishes and cook down to 1/2 cup, about 2 minutes.

Yucca root, also called manioc, cassava, or mandioca looks like a long, tapered sweet potato. It has a starchy white, yellowish, or brown inside.

In Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean the yucca is a dietary staple. It can be boiled, steamed, or made into flour for noodles and pastries. Brazilians use yucca meal as a condiment, and sprinkle it on soup or vegetables, much like the Italians use Parmesan cheese. When processed into a finer flour, it is a good gluten free alternative to wheat flour.

Two types of yucca are grown; one is sweet and can be eaten raw. The second is poisonous raw, and can only be eaten cooked. The poisonous variety isn’t common in the US, but be sure to ask your grocer when you purchase it. Yucca is delicious boiled in some broth or added to soups. Or fry it like potatoes.

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