Not-so-square roots

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These Cinderella vegetables are the darling of the back-to-basics '90s menu

THEY'RE TRADITIONAL, they're economical, they're of humble origins, but they dean up pretty well. Maybe that's why root vegetables are flanking the fanciest restaurant offerings these days. Mashed, frittered and fried, they look nothing like the overcooked mush our mothers begged us to eat. Instead they're the new darlings of the back-to-basics '90s menu.

Carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips and rutabagas stay fresh-looking through the colder months because they are built to withstand frost and hard weather. Some gardeners even leave them in the ground during the winter, digging their parsnips and turnips in the new year's snow. They keep for seven to 10 days in a cool, dark place such as a basement, even longer in the refrigerator produce drawer, best unwashed until ready to use.

Root vegetables peak in flavor from late October to the end of January. A general rule: pick them small and firm rather than large or misshapen. To succeed with root vegetables, recipes must soften the vegetable and add flavor. Start by scrubbing with a vegetable brush if you prefer not to peel your vegetables but always peel the waxy glaze that sometimes protects conventionally grown turnips, parsnips and rutabagas. Then slice the root vegetables into half-moons or julienne strips for quickest cooking.

A chic and easy way to make root vegetables pleasing to the family is to steam, season with herbs or spices, then puree them. Like mashed potatoes, they can sit alongside any entree.

Or you can slice the root vegetables and layer them in a lightly oiled baking dish. Cover with apple juice or white wine, sprinkle with bread crumbs and a little Parmesan cheese and bake, covered, in a 350-degree oven until the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are soft, about 40 minutes. Remove the cover to brown the roots during the final five to 10 minutes. Most kids will eat root vegetables this way or if they're slightly sweetened with equal parts honey and mild mustard or apple-juice concentrate. Brushing the honey mixture or juice concentrate on sliced parsnips or rutabagas before baking gives them a sweet, caramelized flavor.

During the dead of winter, when nothing makes the produce selection shine, root vegetables are fresh, seasonal treats. Anyway you cook them, they'll bring you back to your roots.
Tex-Mex Vegetables

Spicy-food lovers will enjoy this unusual root vegetable dish. If
desired, serve with salsa on the side.

1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder or to taste
Pinch of salt
1 cup steamed diced carrots
1 cup steamed diced turnips
1 cup steamed diced rutabagas
1 cup steamed diced parsnips
1/4 to 1/2 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese
or cheddar-style soy cheese (see glossary, p, 102)

PREHEAT BROILER. Combine first four ingredients in a medium then add steamed vegetables and toss well to coat. Spoon vegetables into a lightly oiled baking dish. Place under broiler until vegetables are heated through, about $ minutes. Sprinkle with cheese; place under broiler and broil until cheese melts and bubbles, about 3 minutes. Makes 4 servings. PER 1-CUP SERVING: 91 CAL.; 4G PROT.; 0 TOTAL FAT (0 SAT. FAT); 19G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 187MG SOD.; 5G FIBER. LACTO/VEGAN
Honey-Anise Vegetable Medley

Anise is a slightly licorice-flavored seed; here it subtly enhances
the natural sweetness of root vegetables.

3 carrots, scraped and cut in quarters lengthwise
2 purple or golden beets, thickly sliced
1 large parsnip, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. vegetable broth or white wine
1 Tbs. butter or margarine
2 Tbs. honey or maple syrup
1 tsp. anise seed
1/2 tsp. each salt and white pepper

PLACE ALL ingredients in small saucepan. Cover; steam until roots are tender when pierced with knife, about 1 $ minutes. Makes 4 servings. PER 1-CUP SERVING: 172 CAL.; 3G PROT.; 3G TOTAL FAT (2G SAT. EAT); 35G CARB.; 8MG CHOL.; 439MG SOD.; 7G FIBER. LACTO/VEGAN
Spicy Root Vegetable Stir-Fry

This unusual stir-fry takes the humble root vegetable in a spicy
direction. Increase the chili oil depending on your heat tolerance.

1 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbs. minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
2 to 3 large carrots, scraped and
julienned
1 large purple or golden beet, julienned
1/2 large rutabaga, julienned
1 cup julienned jicama (see glossary,
p. 102)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. chili oil (see glossary, p. 102) I Tbs. honey or maple
syrup Itsp. grated orange rind 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/2 Tbs. chopped toasted almonds

IN wok or skillet over mediumhigh heat, heat olive oil. SautE garlic and peppers, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Add carrots, beet, rutabaga, jicama and water. Cover and cook until roots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add chili oil, honey or maple syrup, orange rind, salt and spinach. Cook uncovered.until spinach is wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add almonds. Serve over noodles or rice if desired. Makes 4 servings. PER 1-CUP SERVING: 111 CAL.; 3G PROT.; 2G TOTAL FAT (0.2G SAT. FAT); 23G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 369MG SOD.; 7G FIBER. VEGAN (HONEY)
Baked Carrots, Turnips and Rutabagas

Roots get sweeter when they're cooked slowly as in this oven-baked
side dish for winter meals.

2 large carrots, quartered
1 medium turnip, quartered
1 medium rutabaga, quartered
1/4 cup dry sherry or vegetable broth
1 Tbs. apple-juice concentrate
1 Tbs. honey or brown sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon rind

PREHEAT OVEN TO 3 $ 0 degrees. Lightly oil 2-quart casserole dish. Arrange carrots, turnip and rutabaga in casserole. In small bowl, combine sherry or broth, applejuice concentrate, honey or brown sugar and lemon rind. Drizzle over root vegetables. Cover vegetables with aluminum foil; bake until tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Makes 4 servings. PER 1 -CUP SERVING: 80 CAL.; 2G PROT.; 0.5G TOTAL FAT (0 SAT. FAT); 16G CARB.; 0 CHOL; 41MG SOD.; 3G FIBER. VEGAN (HONEY)
Sweet Root Vegetable Soup

A host of root vegetables makes this sweet soup a hearty winter
favorite. Our tasters also enjoyed it served chilled in the style
of Russian BORSCHT.

1/4 cup dry sherry or apple juice
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 scant tsp. caraway seeds 4 cups vegetable broth 1 1/2 cups
julianned beets 1/2 cup julienned parsnips
1/2 cup cubed winter squash
1 cup julienned russet or red potatoes
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 cups chopped green cabbage
Salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. sugar or maple syrup I cup canned tomato sauce Nonfat plain
yogurt for garnish
(optional)

IN LARGE DUTCH OVa, heat sherry or apple juice to boiling; add onions. Cook 3 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add caraway seeds; cook 1 minute. Add 1 cup broth, beets, parsnips, squash, potatoes, carrot and cabbage. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then add remaining broth.

Bring soup to boil, lower heat, and simmer covered until roots are soft, about 40 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar or maple syrup and tomato sauce; simmer 10 more minutes. Adjust seasonings; serve hot with a dollop of yogurt if using. Makes 6 servings. PER 1-CUP SERVING: 143 CAL.; 3G PROT.; 0.4G TOTAL EAT (0 SAT. FAT); 31G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 361MG SOD.; SG FIBER. LACTO/VEGAN
Beets in Sweet Orange Sauce

Beets become a favorite vegetable when served with this
orange-flavored sauce.

4 cups tiny whole beets or thinly
sliced beets
1/2 tsp. arrowroot (see glossary, p. 102)
2 Tbs. apple juice % cup orange juice
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. honey or sugar
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs. butter or margarine
1 tsp. grated orange peel

COOK BEETS in simmering water to cover until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and keep hot.

In small saucepan, stir arrowroot into apple juice until arrowroot dissolves. Add orange juice, lemon juice, vinegar, honey or sugar and salt. Set pan over medium heat and cook, whisking frequently, until thickened. Add butter or margarine and orange peel. Toss with hot beets. Makes 4 servings. PER l-CUP SERVING: 136 CAL.; 3G PROT.; 3G TOTAL FAT (2G SAT. FAT); 25G CARB.; 8MG CHOL.; 225MG SOD.; 6G FIBER. LACTO/VEGAN (HONEY)
Marinated Root Vegetable Salad with Citrus Dressing

6 medium beets
2 medium carrots
1 small turnip
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbs. orange-juice concentrate
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
to taste
Lettuce leaves for garnish
Chopped parsley for garnish

PREHEAT OVEN to 450 degrees. Wrap scrubbed and/or peeled root vegetables in aluminum foil; place on baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour.

While still warm, cut vegetables into eighths. Toss with paprika, cinnamon, cumin, orange-juice concentrate, lemon juice and oil. Cover; let stand 1 hour at room temperature to marinate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Line platter with lettuce leaves and mound salad in center; garnish with chopped parsley. Makes 4 servings. PER 11/2-CUP SERVING: 181 CAL.; 5G PROT.; 4G TOTAL FAT (0.5G SAT. FAT); 35G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 356MG SOD.; 10G FIBER. VEGAN

PHOTO (COLOR): Tex-Mex Vegetables

PHOTO (COLOR): Spicy Root Vefetables Stir-Fry

PHOTOS (COLOR): Preparation of beets

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By Mary Carroll

MARY CARROLL, a longtime contributor to VEGETARIAN TIMES, writes a food column for The Los Angeles Times Syndicate and is the author of THE No CHOLESTEROL (No KIDDING!) COOKBOOK (Rodale, 1991 ).

BACK TO YOUR ROOTS

* Beets--Purple or golden, sweet interior; high in potassium; good raw (grate in salads) or cooked; skin can be bitter-tasting
* Carrots--Sweet, bright orange; high in vitamin A and potassium; good raw or cooked
* Celeriac--Celery root; sweet and crunchy in salads
* Fennel--Licorice-flavored bulb; good in salads, steamed, sauteed
* Jicama--Tropical root, sweet and crunchy; must be peeled
* Kohlrabi--Cabbage family root; best peeled and steamed
* Parsnips-Sweet, assertive flavor; tough skin; carrot-family vegetable with pale yellow interior; look for smooth, firm, crisp roots
* Radishes (daikon)--Long white, mildly spicy root; good raw or sauteed
* Rutabaga--Cross between turnip and cabbage yellow-orange interior, creamy sweet flavor
* Turnip--White with violet edges; best purchased small (less than 2 inches across); good raw or steamed

PHOTO (COLOR): Beets

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