I confess to liking the kind of hippie food that alarmed carnivores fear from vegetarians. My sister and I used to frequent a macro-neurotic restaurant (OK, that’s not really what it’s called--I know that) that lay conveniently between our two apartments, and I still crave those plain grains and steamed greens and beverages made of twigs and bark, though I am less likely to go to a restaurant to get my hands on some than I was back when I was a callow youth. One night when we met for dinner I remember that we had to go somewhere else because my sister said she had had a long day at work and she was not up for “all that chewing,” which is certainly a factor in that particular style of healthful dining.
But there are some foods that only sound like they are going to fall into this category. They turn out to be so much less weird and commune-conjuring than the ingredients suggest they will be that it would be better for the cook to construct them in secret, where none of the suspect ingredients can be observed and hearts hardened against them, and then just whisk them into the mouths of the waiting diners before they can ask any questions.
I pulled that off tonight, but only because on Tuesdays dinner happens in shifts and I made these in between the first wave of eaters and the second, when no one was lingering around in the kitchen. They sound heavily weird, I am just going to warn you, but they don’t taste that way. I swear. Independent tastebuds that would not get close enough to a millet croquette to hit it with a mallet confirm this, as does the photographic evidence of small digits snatching them off the plate as fast as I could try to aim the camera at them.
What of the parsnip, anyway? I just learned it is the closest cousin to parsley, which in some varieties grows with a thick and very parsnip-esque root. Earlier today, in a random event having nothing intentional to do with parsnips, I came across an article in a 2010 New Yorker (this is about the standard delay at which we come across issues of the New Yorker) about root vegetables. In it the writer, Jane Kramer, laments the lack of parsley roots in NYC green-groceries. Apparently it is a hot item in Croatian cooking, especially if you want to stew a rabbit, which I never do. Parsnips are high in potassium and fiber and--perhaps more compelling for the younger customers--are an important food for several butterfly species. Mainly they are tasty, with all of a carrot’s sweetness and a lot more flavor.
OK, I have danced around long enough. I am going to have to tell you what is on these parsnips. I just ask that you keep an open mind.
parsnip oven fries
adapted from here
4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into sticks (or substitute any root vegetable)
3 T almond butter
1T EV olive oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cayenne
Preheat the oven to 400 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix the nut butter, oil, salt and cayenne. Toss the sticks of parsnip (or rutabaga, if you swing that way) in the mix until thoroughly coated and spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for about 35 minutes, moving them around occasionally, until they are crisp on the edges. Over-roasted is better than under-roasted. Eat the first one quizzically, with a little hesitation, and then find you have finished the tray.
I was going to suggest, before I made these, that the coating be duded up with some fresh ginger or lime zest, or a finishing salt, but I am glad I made them plain. Parsnips have a mysterious spiciness to them, and it was nicely supported by the little tix of heat from the cayenne and the tiny bit of salt was all it needed.