Chosen Bites: What lies beneath

As root vegetables go, salsify is one of the uglier ones; but don't be fooled because this ugly ducking is full of flavor.

Salsify vegetable 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Salsify vegetable 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
You have probably walked right past this odd looking vegetable a million times. It's sitting right there next to the turnips. It is an ugly veggie and as you stare at it and shudder, finally walking away to the potato display, you are missing out on a great root vegetable.
Salsify is a root vegetable and is nicknamed Oyster plant due to its sweet and mild oyster-like flavor. I think that salsify tastes more like a cross between asparagus and artichokes, but you get the idea. It is very mild and sort of sweet. It is also called Goatsbeard due to its odd appearance.
Pronounced SAL-suh-fee or SAL-suh-fie, this overlooked root vegetable is a flavorful alternative to potatoes and can be served as a puree, an addition to soups or fried to a crispy chip. Salsify is delicious and an interesting addition to your cold weather vegetable larder.
Salsify is available in the fall and winter. When you have peeled the salsify, be sure to put it in acidulated water (water with an acid like lemon juice added) to prevent the salsify from oxidizing and turning rust colored.
Salsify Fritters
¾ pound of salsifyExtra virgin olive oil1 garlic clove, minced1 small red chili, finely diced (optional)3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander1 egg, lightly beaten1-2 tablespoons flourSalt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Peel and coarsely grate the salsify.
2. Heat a medium sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil and over sauté the salsify until softened (about 10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and mix with the garlic, chili, coriander, egg and flour. Season generously.
3. Form the mixture into six fritters. Warm the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the fritters until golden, about four minutes a side.
Salsify Puree
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 pounds black or white salsify
4 cloes of garlic, roasted
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon horseradish
salt, to taste
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water, and add the lemon juice to create an acidulated bath. Peel the salsify, and cut it into two inch lengths, slipping the pieces into the bath as you work (this keeps the salsify from turning rust colored)
2. Drain the salsify and process the salsify in a food processor, fitted with a shredding disc, until grated.
3. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer and add the grated salsify. Simmer until tender (about 10 minutes).
4. Drain, and puree with remaining ingredients. Garnish with parsley. Serve with roasted fish or sautéed vegetables.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.