Faye Levy's International Vegetable Cookbook, which is a real workhorse where learning what to do with new and unfamiliar vegetables is concerned. This book not only taught me how to make parsnips palatable, it also taught me what to do with daikon, and red cabbage too. And I still have a ton of other recipes marked to try.
For this dish, you boil some parsnips, then swathe them in a creamy yogurt sauce spiked with garlic, sweet paprika, and dill. When I put it that way it sounds kind of busy, but it's a great combination. Somehow the other sharp flavors--dill, garlic, tangy yogurt--help balance out and tone down the sharpness of the parsnips.
Levy's notes say that this sauce is also good with potatoes or carrots. I imagine so, but I've never tried it--because, hey, how awesome is it to have something to do with parsnips! If there's a better vegetable out there to enrobe in this sauce, I kind of don't want to know about it.
Last time I made this recipe, I was trying to figure out how to simplify and streamline it. I thought I could cook the parsnips in a big pot of water, scoop them out (along with a bit of cooking liquid to make the sauce), and then cook the noodles in the same pot of water while I made the sauce. But I'm going to be honest with you: my parsnips--due to my own laziness, not any fault of their own--were kind of, well, marginal by the time I got around to cooking them. And that cooking water smelled really, really bitter. So I just tossed it and started over with fresh water--and the parsnips themselves were delicious, tender and sweet. Crisis averted, but the point is, if you're a better, less lazy person than I am and are therefore working with fresher parsnips you might be able to save a little water and a little time here.
The one quibble that I have with Levy's cookbook is that a lot of the dishes seem like sides, and it can be difficult to figure out how to turn them into a vegetarian main course. With this recipe, I had the idea to serve the parsnips over buttered egg noodles, which seemed consistent with the Central/Eastern European origins of the dish.
My mom's vintage salt and pepper shakers--a couple of guys who look like they know a thing or two about goulash and the like--seem to approve.
Parsnips with Bulgarian Yogurt-Dill Sauce
1/2 C plain yogurt (full-fat is best, I think)
1 pound parsnips
1 C water or vegetable stock (or cooking liquid from the parsnips)
8 oz. dried egg noodles
1 medium garlic clove
2 1/2 Tbsp butter, divided
2 Tbsp flour
1tsp sweet paprika
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, get the yogurt out of the refrigerator and put it in a medium bowl (you want it to be at room temperature by the time you add it to the sauce); stir until smooth.
Put a large pot of water on to boil with a pinch of salt. Wash and peel the parsnips, and cut into 2-inch lengths. Quarter any thick pieces (larger than 3/4 inch in diameter) lengthwise. Trim any woody centers (I find this instruction kind of confusing--I'm never sure how to distinguish between a woody center and a not-woody one--so I tend to err on the side of trimming them out).
When the water boils, add the parsnips to the pan, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat until tender, about 15-20 minutes. If it seems like a good idea, remove the parsnips from the pan with a slotted spoon and scoop out 1 Cup of the cooking liquid, setting both of these aside. Otherwise, just drain the parsnips and put on a new pot of water for the noodles.
When the water for the noodles boils, add them to the pot. Peel the garlic.
Then, in a large skillet, melt 1 1/2 Tbsp butter. Add the flour and paprika to the melted butter, and cook over low heat, whisking, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the water/stock/cooking liquid. Put the pan back on the heat and bring to a boil, whisking. Press the garlic into the pan and cook over low heat, whisking often, about 2 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat again and gradually stir the sauce into the bowl with the yogurt. Return to pan and whisk until smooth. Gently heat through; do not boil. Stir in dill. Add parsnips and heat through without boiling. Taste and adjust seasoning.
The noodles should be done now; drain them. Return them to the pan, add the remaining 1 Tbsp butter, and toss to coat the noodles with butter. Put the buttered noodles on a plate and the parsnips on top. Serve hot.
Makes 3 servings.