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Root Vegetables 101
These so-called root vegetables store nutrients in their roots or underground stems (which are called tubers). They come from various botanical families and are characterized by a deep, sweet earthiness and pleasingly dense texture. In other words, great winter meals start here.
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Mashed or pureed, this peppery, nutty-sweet species of turnip goes well with rich meats. Whether it’s waxed for longer shelf life (which is usually what you’ll find at the supermarket) or left unwaxed, you’ll want to peel it.
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White Yam (Name Blanco)
This starchy, unsweet tropical tuber is one of many species of true yam (as opposed to sweet potato) that are easily found at Latin, Caribbean, Filipino, and African markets. When boiled or steamed, it becomes fluffy and delicate.
Try white yams in Pumpkin Soup.
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Yuca (Cassava, Manioc)
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The mellow sweetness of this aromatic root is fundamental to long-cooked dishes. The "baby" carrots shown here are actually varieties that develop full flavor when small and tender; they’re delicious raw or cooked.
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This root is part of the nightshade family, which includes chiles and tomatoes. With a medium starch content, the rich-flavored Yukon gold variety, shown here, can be baked, boiled, mashed, or roasted with equal success.
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Celery Root (Celeriac)
This root with a mild celery flavor has finesse: It gives velvety body to creamy soups and purees; and cut into pieces and roasted, it’s subtle and sophisticated.
Try celery root in Lacquered Short Ribs with Celery-Root Puree and Celery-Pear Salad or Apple-and-Root-Vegetable Hash.
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This tuber commonly ranges in color from white to orange; the deeper the flesh color, the moister and sweeter it is when cooked. No matter what the sign in the produce department says, it's neither a yam nor a true potato.
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The primary source of jicama (HEE-ka-ma) is Mexico, where the crunchy, juicy tuber is often served raw with chile, salt, and lime. A quick saute brings out the gentle, leguminous sweetness of this member of the bean family.
Try jicama in Poached Shrimp with Honeydew, Radishes, Jicama, and Scallions and Avocado-Jicama Dip.
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It comes in a number of rich hues, from golden to magenta. Roasting deepens the root's sweetness. When sauteed or braised, the greens turn lush like chard (a relation).
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Like its cousin the radish, the turnip comes in various shapes and sizes. The purple-topped type, with its clean, peppery bite, adds balance to a blend of roasted root vegetables and cuts the richness of a potato gratin.