Like the punchline to a bad joke, the mere mention of parsnips causes groans. But this much-maligned veggie's sweetness and depth of flavour are released with careful cooking, usually slow-roasting or stewing, or by pairing it with tart green apple and other root veg in curries. Unlike carrots or beets, parsnips are rarely sold with their greens attached, because they produce a juice that can cause a severe skin rash.
That's just a bit of the foodie trivia found in Elizabeth Schneider's Vegetables From Amaranth To Zucchini: The Essential Reference (William Morrow). With a whopping 777 9-by-11-inch pages, this books boasts lots of info that could easily fit into a more kitchen-friendly edition half the size. But then it wouldn't be so beautiful.
Here's a decidedly northern European side dish -- Parsnip, Potato and Squash Purée -- from this coffee-table book. Peel 2 large Yukon Gold (or other floury) potatoes, 6 ounces of winter squash and 4 fairly large parsnips, and cut into equal pieces. In a saucepan, combine the cubed veggies with 4 large peeled garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and enough water to almost cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer partly covered for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Drain, setting aside 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Transfer the veggies to a mixing bowl and purée with a potato masher or ricer until fairly smooth. Return the purée to the saucepan and, over very low heat, beat in a little of the cooking water until it reaches the desired consistency. When heated through, whisk in 2 tablespoons butter. Just before serving, grate nutmeg over the plated purée.SD