I have the feeling there is some kind of lookist prejudice towards winter vegetables. Winter (at least in Germany) seems to be the time when farmer’s markets turn into vanity fairs: all the sun-soaked desirable produce beauties have vanished and we seem to be left with their less desirable frumpy cousins that will make our kitchens smell and our digestion troubled (cabbage) or our hips wider (sugary root vegetables). But there are hidden treasures – literally: beneath the surface (where it so often lies) there is unexpected beauty.
Parsnips are the Elves among the Dwarves, the Eloi among the Morlocks, so to speak. They are elegantly pale and ivory colored and have the most luxurious consistency when cooked. The moment you start to peel them you are hit by a heady perfume of parsley root and celery. When you cook them, this turns into a more subtle, weird but wonderful scent with notes of apples, but also coconut. This salad is all about keeping it simple, but also adding a little pzaz with a (do the moves with me while you read this) rustic but dazzling brown butter drazzling.
Oven baking is the root treatment of choice for this salad: it brings out the natural sugariness of the parsnips and turns them into true flavor bombs. Some darker scorched streaks are perfectly fine and desired here. Instead of oil, the warm dressing is based on brown butter – one of the most simple yet luxurious substances I can think of. It gives the salad a nuttiness and richness which is rounded off with a mellow Bavarian sweet mustard and the acrid acidity of sherry vinegar, which you add straight to the butter while the pan is still hot. Salt, pepper, a quick swirl, and your done. Basically, you do a vinaigrette as always, it just happens to happen on the stove.
The finishing touch is provided by the herbal cleanness of fresh dill. For the final assembly, throw in a generous amount of it, not too finely chopped. Use it as a salad component, not as a herbal accessory. And you’re done. Because of all the starch and butter, this is perfectly fine as a vegetarian dish on its own (I felt I had to give you and me one after the meat-stravaganza the other week and the week before) . If you want to add some protein, some flaked salmon would be perfect on top.
Roasted Parsnip Salad
Serves 2 as main, 4 as side. Active time: 25 minutes, cooking: about 15 minutes.
750 g parsnips
some canola oil
1 tbsp sweet creambutter
1 tbsp sweet mustard
1.5 tbsp dark sherry vinegar
coarse sea salt, black pepper
1 bunch dill
1 Preheat the oven to 200 °C top- and bottom heat. Wash, peel and chop the parsnips into sticks of about 1.5-2 inches. I like to give them a bit of a lumberjack look, that is cutting them in irregular shapes. Toss the parsnips in a bit of canola oil and scatter with coarse salt. Bake them on the middle oven shelf for about 15 minutes, until they are tender but still have a slight bite and have golden, slightly scorched edges.
2 For the dressing, let the butter melt slowly over medium heat and then let it get hazel brown and fragrant. If you like, filter the butter through a kitchen cloth to get rid of the blackened protein particles (I don’t mind them). Add a spoonful of mustard and the vinegar straight to the pan, season with salt and pepper and check for acidity.
3 Roughly chop or scissor in a whole bunch of fresh dill. Toss the lukewarm parsnips with the dressing and dill and eat at room temperature right away. If you keep it in the fridge, give it a short flash in a mildly warm oven before eating.