Danita’s story about parsnips in her Grandma’s stew made me curious: What about parsnips would turn off a child? Danita remembered the parsnips as bitter. Did the cooking method make them this way, or did it bring out a bitterness that other preparations would mask?
So I boiled a couple of my gigantic parsnips, without salt or any other flavoring, put them through a food mill, and tasted the purée. Danita was right: The stuff was bitter. With some of the natural sugar lost to the cooking water, and without added salt or fat, the parsnips were indeed distasteful.
No matter, though, because I have no qualms about adding salt or fat to my vegetables. I couldn’t think of any way I might use the purée, in fact, without adding both salt and fat. And I decided to try—
To purée big parsnips, peel them, slice them crosswise into two or more pieces, and cut each piece into four or eight wedges. Stand each piece on the wider cut end, and slice out the core. Gently boil the cored pieces in a little water, as you would potatoes, until the pieces are tender. Then press them through the medium screen of a food mill.
1 cup parsnip purée
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
Ground black pepper
A sprig or two of rosemary, dried and crumbled or fresh and chopped
Several cloves of garlic, minced
Large bunch of beet, chard, or kale leaves
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Put the parsnip purée into a bowl, add the salt, and lightly stir in ½ cup of the flour. Sprinkle a little of the remaining flour over the mass and the rest across a cutting board. Form the mass into a long snake about ¾ inch thick. Cut the snake into ½-inch pieces. Separate the pieces, and roll them lightly in the flour on the board.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. In a large frying pan, melt the butter, and add the black pepper, nutmeg, and rosemary. Turn off the heat under the frying pan.
In the saucepan, gently boil the gnocchi in batches of about a dozen for about a minute, until the gnocchi rise to the top. Remove them with a slotted pan to the frying pan, and turn the heat to low. When all the gnocchi have been added, toss in the garlic. Turn the gnocchi gently as the garlic begins to release its scent. Turn off the heat.
Steam the greens. (I put them fresh-rinsed and still damp into a wide pan, cover the pan, and cook them just until they are limp.)
Put the greens into a wide, shallow bowl, and top them with the gnocchi and seasoned butter. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the dish, and put the rest into a small bowl to serve along with the gnocchi. Enjoy!
As I’d hoped, the tender white gnocchi tasted deliciously of parsnips. To me, at least, no bitterness was detectable in this dish—except in the beet greens. And the garlicky butter tamed even that bitterness—enough for the typical grownup, at least. A typical kid might turn down the greens but happily gobble up the gnocchi.
I’m glad to say I have more parsnip purée in the fridge. I could try Graeme’s parsnip pie. Or, how about parsnip ravioli?