I cook with lots of beets, carrots, and potatoes, and sometimes I branch out and roast something crazy, like a parsnip or some Jerusalem artichokes. But I’ve never considered cooking with arrowroot, lotus root, fresh horseradish, taro, or galanga before picking up Diane Morgan’s new cookbook, Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes. Now, I’m actually looking forward to winter, (when most roots are in season). Here are a few recipes from this impressively varied cookbook that caught my eye. (And hey, if these beet-colored red velvet cupcakes sound iffy, just think of carrot cake!)
Rutabaga hash with onions and crisp bacon
Serves 4 to 6
Make this hash for a weekend brunch or as an easy weeknight supper. I like to serve it with a tossed green salad or a steamed vegetable and a crusty loaf of bread. Pass Tabasco or other hot sauce at the table; the vinegary, smoky flavor of hot sauce complements the rutabagas, bacon, and chiles. Poach eggs to place on top of this hearty hash. The runny soft-cooked eggs are a perfect complement.
6 slices bacon, about 5 oz, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 lb rutabagas, ends trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into slices 1/4-inch thick
1 Anaheim chile, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce for serving
1. In a 12-inch frying pan, preferably cast iron, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
2. Pour off all but 1/4 cup of the fat from the pan. Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the rutabagas and onion, and sauté, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring once, for 7 minutes to steam the rutabagas. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are browned at the edges, about 1 minute longer.
3. Add the celery and chiles, stir briefly, and then cover and cook for 3 minutes longer. Uncover the pan and add the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rutabagas are fork-tender and the celery is crisp but not raw tasting. Fold in the cilantro and bacon. Serve immediately, garnished with additional cilantro. Pass the hot-pepper sauce at the table.
Stir-fried lotus root and snow peas
Serves 4 to 6
Characteristic of the crisp vegetable dishes common to Cantonese cooking, this quick stir-fry is as beautiful as it is crunchy, with brilliant green snow peas set against a backdrop of delicate, snowy white lotus root half-moons. The sauce glazes the vegetables with the subtle flavor of soy and sesame oil. For a bolder finish, increase the amount of soy sauce.
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp Chinese rice wine or pale dry sherry
1 1/2 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water
1/4 tsp granulated sugar
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp canola or other neutral oil
2 tsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
8 oz lotus root, ends trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut crosswise into slices 1/8-inch thick
12 oz snow peas, stem end trimmed and strings removed
1/4 cup homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, cornstarch mixture, sugar, and pepper until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce is smooth. Set aside.
2. In a wok or a large, deep frying pan, heat the oil over high heat and swirl to coat the pan bottom and sides. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry just until fragrant but not brown, about 15 seconds. Scatter in the lotus root slices and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the snow peas and stir-fry for 1 minute longer. Pour the stock over the top, give the vegetables a quick toss, cover, and simmer for 45 seconds. Uncover, toss the vegetables once and then add the sauce. Continue to stir-fry until the sauce thickens and glazes the vegetables, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve immediately.
Red velvet cupcakes with orange buttercream
Makes 12 cupcakes
These darling magenta-hued cupcakes are brilliantly colored all the way through. No food coloring is used here; the color comes from pureeing freshly roasted beets. I tested the recipe with canned beets and the color is drab and faded, but given how easy it is to roast beets this simple step can be done while you measure and prepare the ingredients for the cupcakes and buttercream. I finely chop the roasted beets and then puree them in a food processor. It is important to let the machine run for a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides of the workbowl once or twice, until the puree is completely smooth.
2 cups sifted cake/soft-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups pureed red roasted beets
1 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup canola oil
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’/icing sugar
1 tbsp heavy (whipping)/double cream
1/2 tsp pure orange oil (see Cook’s notes)
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 tbsp fresh orange juice
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees/gas 4. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the beets, sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, stir in one-third of the flour mixture, and continue stirring just until the flour disappears. Do not beat or overmix. Repeat, adding the remaining flour mixture in two batches.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing the batter evenly and filling each cup almost to the top of the liner. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let the cupcakes rest in the pan, set on a wire rack, for 10 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack to cool completely, for about an hour.
5. To make the buttercream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, cream the butter on low speed. Add the sugar, cream, orange oil, and vanilla, and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add the orange juice, a little at a time, until the buttercream is fluffy and smooth.
6. When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread a thick layer of buttercream over the tops, swirling the frosting to decorate the tops. Alternatively, the frosting can be transferred to a pastry bag and piped around the tops of the cupcakes. The cupcakes can be made up to two days in advance. Store, covered, at room temperature.
Cook’s notes: Pure orange oil is an essential oil cold pressed from the rind of oranges. It is different from pure orange extract. Look for pure orange oil in the baking section of natural foods stores, at baking supply stores, or Middle Eastern grocers. Two brands I see often is Boyajian or Frontier.
The cupcakes freeze well and are handy to have on hand for a party. Freeze the cupcakes unwrapped on a baking sheet/tray. Once frozen, wrap them individually, first with plastic wrap/cling film and then with aluminum foil. The cupcakes can be frozen up to one month. Unwrap the cupcakes and thaw at room temperature.
All recipes by Diane Morgan, from Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes, Chronicle Books 2012.
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