Autumn Found Underground
Hidden from sight, not often eaten, ugly-looking — Katie Shapiro looks at the culinary possibilities of working with root vegetables
Knobby, bulbous, and irregularly shaped, root vegetables might not be the darlings of Instagram following all that photogenic summer produce, but that shouldn’t stop you from sinking your teeth into these versatile veggies.
The root vegetable category encompasses everything from carrots and beets to radishes and ginger. Those are some of the prettier ones. I set out to see what Ottawa chefs are doing with three decidedly less eye-catching varieties: celery root, sunchokes, and turnips.
Not one to pick her produce on the basis of colour, chef Marysol Foucault, owner of Edgar in Gatineau, says she understands why people might be less inclined to work with celery root if they are unfamiliar with it. It’s brown and it looks kind of like a brain. But look past its gnarly exterior, and you’ll see that it offers a great combination of flavours: it is reminiscent of celery but is more workable. Foucault calls it a “tastier potato.” To show off celery root, she made a celery root brown butter pavé with a celery and celery root cream, topped with crispy chicken skins. (A pavé is basically any dish in a rectangular shape — in this case, it’s like a gratin.)
Known by many as the queen of brunch, Foucault has included the components of this celery root dish on her brunch menus, and you might see the full dish at her restaurant this season.
At town. on Elgin Street, chef Marc Doiron makes sunchokes the star in his dish Sunchokes Four Ways. Diners often pause to ask exactly what sunchokes are. Known also as Jerusalem artichokes, they are the tuber of a sunflower plant. Slightly nutty and tasting a bit like a cross between potatoes and artichokes, raw sunchokes offer a nice crunch but are soft and creamy when cooked. They tend to be a common ingredient on locavore menus once autumn arrives and are easily found in most produce sections.
With sunchokes pickled, raw, roasted, and fried, the name of the dish is self-explanatory. The medley of sunchokes is set atop a vibrant chermoula sauce (think Moroccan salsa verde) and garnished with preserved lemon. Right off the bat, that’s four easy ways to enjoy sunchokes. They also appear in town.’s vegetarian version of a Caesar salad as the substitute for bacon. While it might take a bit of prep to enjoy the vegetable all four ways at home, each component is delicious on its own.
According to food historians, the turnip is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. Also known as rutabaga, it is a vegetable that Ottawans are already very familiar with as that brightly pink pickled ingredient in shawarma. Like most root vegetables, turnips are Its day in the sun Sunchokes featured four ways — pickled, raw, roasted, and fried — by town.’s Marc Doiron