Root Vegetables

By Perre Coleman Magness / Photography By Fred Thompson | October 31, 2016
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Celery Root Soup

As the summer produce starts to peter out, it is time to return to the wonder of fall root vegetables. Too many people look at these humble roots as a poor substitute for the multi-hued bounty of summer, but what the roots lack in flash, they more than make up for in flavor. Here’s a menu for a full root-vegetable meal.

Beet and Yogurt Dip with Dill

The vivid pink of this dish is a stunner on a party table, sprinkled with walnuts and an extra shower of dill. Serve it with celery sticks, carrot spears, radish slices, seeded crackers, or pita bread.

4 small beets, trimmed

1½ cups plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup fresh dill fronds

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons lemon juice

salt and generous amounts of black pepper, to taste

½ cup chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap each beet in foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes until soft.

Remove the beets and, when cool enough to handle, peel and chop them. And yes, you might want to wear rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands.

Place the beets, yogurt, lemon juice, dill, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and purée until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the dip to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to blend. The dip can be made up to two days ahead.

Before serving, sprinkle with the walnuts and a small pinch of chopped fresh dill.

Makes about 3 cups.

Simple Celery Root Soup

This recipe creates the creamy texture of a classic potato soup, but with the added mystery of celery root. I like to treat it like a potato soup and top it with bacon, shredded cheddar, and a dollop of sour cream, but the possibilities are endless.

3 leeks

¼ cup butter

1⁄3 cup white wine

½ celery root (celeriac), about 8 ounces

1 russet potato, about 7 ounces

5 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2¼ cups water

3 bay leaves


Slice the white and pale-green part of the leeks in half lengthwise, then slice each half into thin half circles. Place the leeks in a large bowl of cold water and swirl around with your hands, shuffling to separate the layers of leek. Leave for a few minutes to let any dirt settle to the bottom of the bowl.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Scoop the leeks out of the water and shake to drain somewhat. (Do not pour the leeks and water into a strainer because the dirt will just fall back onto the leeks.) Then add to the melted butter. Stir to coat and then stir in the wine and ¼ cup water. Cook for a few minutes, until the leeks begin to reduce in bulk, then cover, lower the heat to low, and cook 20–25 minutes until the leeks are soft and semi-translucent. Stir occasionally during cooking and add a little more water if needed. Do not let the leeks brown.

While the leeks are cooking, peel the celery root. I find that a regular vegetable peeler works well for this, but you may need to go back with a paring knife and remove some peel from the knobby places. Cut the celery root into medium-sized chunks. Peel the potato and cut it into chunks as well. When the leeks are soft, add the celery root, potato, broth, 2 cups water, and bay leaves to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook 30–40 minutes until the vegetables are very soft.

Discard the bay leaves. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup to a smooth consistency. You can also do this in batches in a blender, which will give you a smoother texture.

This soup can be covered and refrigerated for four days, or portioned and frozen.

Makes 6 servings.

Root Vegetables with Walnut Sage Crumble

I love this dish for its homey charm and the creative twist of turning a summer fruit crumble into a hearty autumn vegetable dish. This can be served as a side to a roasted joint of meat or as an impressive vegetarian main course. The combination of vegetables below marries into a perfect array of colors and contrasting flavors, but you can substitute other roots in the same quantities (though red beets will bleed their color onto everything else).


For the Vegetables:

1 celery root (celeriac), about 14 ounces

3 carrots, about 6 ounces

1 large parsnip, about 7 ounces

1 sweet potato, about 12 ounces

2 leeks

12⁄3 cup vegetable stock

1 (8 ounce) tub crème fraiche

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

4–5 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

kosher salt


For the Crumble:

¾ cup walnuts

6 sage leaves

½ cup all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Wash, peel, and chop the celery root, carrots, parsnip, and sweet potato. Cut all the vegetables into roughly the same-size pieces, about ½ inch. Chop the leeks into half-moons and rinse thoroughly.

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the root vegetables and stir, then add the leeks and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, stir together the crème fraiche, flour, mustard, and chopped sage until thoroughly combined. When the vegetables have cooked, stir in the crème fraiche mixture until everything is fully coated. Season with kosher salt to taste. Spoon the vegetables into a 2-quart baking dish and set aside to cool.

For the Crumble: Pulse the walnuts and sage leaves together until you have a fine meal. Add the flour and the butter, cut into small chunks, and process until you have a nice crumbly topping. Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse briefly to mix.

Spread the crumble topping over the vegetables. At this point, you can cover the dish and refrigerate several hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Cook the crumble until heated through and golden brown on top, about 20–30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4–6

Spiced Parsnip Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze

Unusual, but familiar. This cake turns the idea of carrot cake on its head, using woodsy parsnips and warming spices. A light cream-cheese glaze brings it back toward the traditional.

For the Cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

¾ cups packed light brown sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups grated parsnip (from about 2 medium parsnips)


For the Glaze:

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3–4 tablespoons milk


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 10–cup Bundt pan with baking spray.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the brown sugar, oil, and vanilla. Stir in the grated parsnip. Stir in the flour mixture until completely combined and no trace of dry ingredients is visible in the bowl. Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake 45–50 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan, placed on a wire rack.

For the Glaze:

Beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in the small bowl of a mixer until smooth. Drizzle in the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until you have a thick, spoonable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake, pushing some of it to drip down the sides.

Serves 12

Photo 1: Root Vegetables with Walnut Sage Crumble
Photo 2: Beet and Yogurt Dip with Dill
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