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Chef Alex Guarnaschelli on Root Vegetables and More

Q&As

From carrots to cassava, root vegetables are enjoying a culinary renaissance; this Thursday, December 13, at 6:30 pm, noted New York chef and Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli will be at the Museum for a special Adventures in the Global Kitchen program devoted to how to cook and eat root vegetables, why they’re a lynchpin of biodiversity, and more.

She will be joined by Eleanor Sterling, co-curator of the Museum's new exhibition Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture. “My experience in developing this exhibition has given me a renewed appreciation for the tremendous diversity of ingredients that form the basis of so many of our global cuisines,” says Sterling, who is also director of the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. “For example, cassava, or manioc, is a fascinating root vegetable—a key tuber for food security in tropical regions, and the basis for staple dishes in Africa, Asia, and South America.” 

Alex Guarnaschelli

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli

Courtesy of the Food Network


We spoke with Guarnaschelli recently about her love of familiar and forgotten root vegetables—from turnips to parsley root—and she shared a wintry, holiday root-vegetable soup recipe. Samplings at the talk will include mixed radishes with chopped egg; house-cured bacon with butter-mashed turnips; and root-vegetable holiday cookies.

You're executive chef at two NYC restaurants: Butter and The Darby. Any unusual root vegetables, or root vegetable recipes, you offer there?

I use rutabaga a lot lately, and I am currently working a rutabaga purée into ginger-snap cookies for one of my desserts; I like to put roots in unusual spots on the menu.

What's your favorite root vegetable? Any memories of dishes you ate as a child?

I don't associate a lot of root vegetables with early food memories. I have grown to love them largely because the farmers from our area have inspired me to cook with them in a variety of ways. I especially love purple-top turnips, shaved raw into a green salad with some apple slices or braised with some ground mace and allspice.

Root Vegetables with Alex Guaranschelli

At Butter, you emphasize local ingredients—any finds locally for amazing root vegetable sources?

Alex Paffenroth, of Paffenroth Gardens at the Union Square Greenmarket, is great: He is currently swimming in salsify, burdock root, and dandelion root as well as varied turnips, rutabaga, and celery root. 

Paffenroth Gardens Greenmarket

Paffenroth Gardens, at the Union Square Greenmarket, is one of Guarnaschelli's go-to root-vegetables purveyors.

Courtesy GrowNYC


Guarnaschelli's Celery Root, Parsley Root, and Apple Soup

If parsley root is unavailable, feel free to substitute celery root (also called celeriac) in the same quantity. For the amounts of celery and parsley root in this recipe, the loss of the skin (after they are peeled) has been accounted for in the weight.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 yellow onion, peeled and minced

2 leeks, green tops removed, split, thinly sliced and washed

Kosher salt

Freshly-ground white pepper

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced

2 pounds celery root, peeled and thinly sliced

1 ½ pounds parsley root, peeled and thinly sliced

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon ground allspice

3-4 cups cold water

2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup parsley leaves, stemmed and washed

1 Fuji or Royal Gala apple, washed, cored and thinly sliced, for garnish

 

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the onion and leek. Stir to blend with a wooden spoon and season with salt and pepper.  Add the apple, celery root, and parsley root. Stir to blend. Add the bay leaf and allspice. Cook, stirring from time to time, 3-5 minutes. Add 3 cups of the water and cream.
  2. Bring the soup to a boil and reduce the heat so the soup comes to a simmer. Taste for seasoning. Cook until the vegetables are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 35-40 minutes. Note: if there is insufficient liquid, feel free to add the remaining cup of water (or additional cream, if desired).
  3. Use a blender to puree the soup in small batches. Strain it through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer. Taste for seasoning. Add the parsley leaves. Ladle into individual bowls or in a large bowl, if desired. Top with a few apple slices.

Buy tickets to see Alex Guarnaschelli and Eleanor Sterling, at the Adventures in the Global Kitchen event starting at 6:30 pm on Thursday, December 13. Ticketholders to the event also receive free admission to Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture from 5:45-6:15 pm.

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