I’m not on a raw food diet; but my oven would have me that way. It won’t fire up, for mysterious reasons, and I seem to miss the mechanic at my building every time he comes by. So what was going to be a simple side dish of roasted root vegetables — just carrots and parsnips — turned out even simpler. And arguably more delicious, or at least, more refreshing.
It’s the last hurrah for these winter root vegetables, while just-sprouted spring greens prepare to take over the scene. Strange to think that apples, which were harvested way back in the fall, are still just as plentiful at the farmers’ markets around here. I just ate a red Cortland one that was as crisp as a snow pear. The carrots are as juicy as ever, too; these ones stained my hands orange and bled onto the bottom of the bowl over time, just like any good carrot should. Parsnips look visibly hardy, kind of like a rugged sailor with its scraggly wisps and deeply punctured wrinkles. And they are, too, withstanding the months locked in cold storage staying crisp.
That’s what we’re celebrating in this salad — their journey to the end of the season. Yes, parsnips are perfectly good raw. That soft, spongey, sort of banana-y texture of roasted parsnips will mush in your mouth no more, and you’ll be hard-pressed to taste its sweetness when uncooked, too. But, dense with starch, the raw parsnip packs quite a snap when bitten into, which is a pleasant way to experience the vegetable anew. And if you’re not a fan of their flavor, this way they’ll be much more neutral, a blank slate to take on your dressing.
Rather than run the risk of slicing off your fingers with a mandoline, I recommend grabbing an average vegetable peeler, and running off ribbons of the root vegetables along their length. Scrap the first rotation of super-dry, wispy skin, and just peel the rest into a bowl. Turn the carrot or parsnip a little after each peel, holding onto its base. And try to go light on the peels, so they’re as thin and delicate as you can get them. (Assuming you prefer your shreds to be thin, which I do.) A fine pile of peels will sit before you after a few minutes, and you’ll also have perfectly manicured “baby” carrots and parsnips leftover from the process, which are great to roast or sautee (or just gobble up right away).
Any, any homemade salad dressing will do, but I’d shy away from Balsamic vinegar unless you want a dark orange-brown pile of stuff, and would recommend the vibrancy of fresh lemon and its zest for these delicately sweet, tender things. A dab of mustard and honey helps round out this dressing, and a speck of salt and white, but not black pepper (for aesthetics only). Looking forward to raw zucchini shredded and dressed this way come the summer.
Raw Carrot & Parsnip Salad
(makes about 4-6 servings)
2 large carrots
2 large parsnips
juice and zest of half a lemon (about 2 Tb juice)
1 teaspoon mustard (I used SchoolHouse Kitchen’s signature sweet-hot Dijon, but any style will do)
1 teaspoon honey
about 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt and white pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
Peel the skin from the carrots and parsnips. Still using a regular vegetable peeler, peel off ribbons of each one, slowly turning them at their bases as you go along. Continue peeling until you cannot make very long shreds, and reserve the cores for another use.
In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, zest, mustard and honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as you whisk until mixture is emulsified. Taste, and add a pinch or two of salt and white pepper to taste. Gently toss the shredded vegetables with the dressing, and finish by sprinkling in the parsley at the last toss.
(for 4-6 servings)
2 carrots (at $1.50/lb): $0.60
2 parsnips (at $1.50/lb): $0.60
half a lemon: $0.17
1 tsp each honey and mustard: $0.25
4 Tb olive oil: $0.30
fresh parsley (from windowsill plant): $0.10
Two brownie points: This one really isn’t going to break your budget (see above), or your diet. That said, it is just a side, so you can’t live off of only this. As such, you’ll receive plenty of beta-carotene from those oh-so-orange carrots, Vitamin C, and the parsnips have some of that as well as potassium, fiber and folate (never judge a white vegetable for its lack of color alone).
Seven maple leaves: The majority of the act’s local, pesticide-free veggies from the Greenmarket, and we’ll give ourselves a pat on the back for making use of the last of the winter harvest. Some of this produce hasn’t made it so well into the last stretch (yesterday a farm was giving away heads of not-the-freshest garlic for 6 per dollar). The bad’s more predictable: lemon, and olive oil. The culprits of non-local eating, de rigeur.