The Root Vegetable Chronicles: one of the ugliest vegetables around (but still tasty!)
Riddle me this, dear readers:
What vegetable looks like a parsnip that was hit with an ugly stick?
Or like a dirty gnarly root that would be found next to “eye of newt” on a fairy tale witch’s shelf? (Note that it’s also called “goatsbeard,” which in my mind makes it all the more suitable for this kind of scenario)
And has flesh that, when peeled or cut into, turns from creamy white to dark brown almost immediately when exposed to air? (again, I say: makes it quite apropos for the above scenario)
And tastes, some people say, like oysters (???) but in reality, tastes slightly more similar to artichokes?
If you answered salsify (or as I have the urge to call it everytime I say it aloud, SAL-si-feeeeee!!), then – ding ding ding ding! – you’re RIGHT! Gold stars all around.
Salsify comes in two kinds; the hairy, off-white root that looks like a hairy version of a parsnip, and the smoother black kind. I wonder how many people pass salsify by because they have no idea what it is, or how to cook it? I wouldn’t have known before I was confronted with a bunch of salsify roots in our share. But it’s fun, isn’t it – trying new foods and learning to cook something new?
We had some of the salsify roasted, which is always good, but then I was looking for a new way to cook the rest. A quick google search turned up this recipe, from Craft chef Damon Wise. As I mentioned above, the flesh does quickly discolor when you peel the root, so it’s helpful to have a bowl of acidulated water nearby that you can put the cut pieces to prevent them from turning brown. I had some fresh parsley that’s been overwintering in a pot in our garage, so I used that to toss with the batons after they’d browned off in the pan. All in all, it was a delicious dish that I will definitely repeat again. I have a soft spot in my heart for gnarly, knobby, ugly-duckling vegetables.
Adapted from this recipe
4 large or 8 small/thin salsify roots
Juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1–2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A sprinkling of chopped parsley or thyme
Peel the salsify roots and place them in a shallow pan with water to cover, lemon juice, black pepper, bay leaf, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender (about 20-30 minutes, simmering, based on the thickness of the roots.)
Remove the salsify roots from the liquid and let cool slightly, then cut into small pieces (I cut mine into 2-inch batons.)
Heat some olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until hot, then add the salsify pieces along with a sprinkle of coarse salt and a grinding or two of fresh black pepper. Cook until golden brown, then toss in the chopped fresh thyme at the end.