Root vegetables are the offal of the produce world. When most cooks think of them, which they rarely do, it’s with a slightly curled lip – parsnips, rutabagas and turnips are anything but glamorous ingredients. They have the reputation of being things you cook because you have to, not because you want to.
Leave it to Diane Morgan to find their sensuous side in her new book “Roots.” It’s a gorgeous work, loaded with dramatic color photos, that puts root vegetables in a whole new light. Just as pork belly has become a new status symbol, could the same be in store for celery root?
Morgan addresses the full panoply of what we consider roots. Yes, there are some that are actually tubers, corms and rhizomes, but that knowledge is really useful only for enlivening a deadly dull dinner conversation (like knowing that pumpkins are fruits).
So we find common friends such as beets, carrots and potatoes, as well as the more unfamiliar arrowhead, burdock root and crosne. Each gets its full due with brief descriptions of their history and lore, varietal differences, nutritional information, and tips on how to choose, store and prepare them. And, of course, recipes. Lots of recipes.
“Roots: The Definitive Compendium With More than 225 Recipes,” by Diane Morgan, Chronicle Books, $40.