- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

With little growing above ground during these bitterly cold days, let your cooking take root. Instead of preparing delicate greens, turn to root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots for satisfying entrees. Although they aren’t fast cooking, root vegetables are ideal ingredients in soups and stews, where they slowly release their flavors.

When shopping, select vegetables that are firm to the touch and unblemished. Avoid vegetables that are shriveled. If root vegetables such as carrots have their greens attached, look for firm stems.

Potatoes require careful shopping and storing this time of the year. Green patches may develop as potatoes sit for a long time in light-filled, warm rooms. High levels of chlorophyll in the spuds cause the color change. However, the green tinge may also be a sign that the potatoes are producing large amounts of solanine, which could make you sick (if you consume significant amounts of the substance).

Inspect potatoes before buying, making sure the color is appropriate to the variety. At home, store potatoes in a cool, dark place. Cut out and discard small chunks of green, and cook the remaining potato parts immediately.

The following recipe is a delicious and economical way to use readily available root vegetables. Although it’s designed for two, you can double the ingredients and have leftovers for a couple of meals.

Underground beef stew

Makes 2 servings.

8 ounces beef round steak, top round or bottom round, cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 small onion or 1 large shallot, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup red wine

1 cup beef broth

1 medium carrot, peeled, trimmed and diced

1 medium parsnip, peeled, trimmed and diced

1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Place beef on a plate with flour and pepper. Toss to coat beef. Heat oil in large nonstick pot over medium-high heat. Add beef, half at a time, and brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove beef.

Add onion and garlic to pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in red wine and scrape up any browned bits. Add broth, carrot, parsnip, sweet potato, salt, paprika, chili flakes and cumin. Stir in browned beef. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes or until vegetables and beef are tender.

Each serving has: 370 calories; 11 grams total fat; 25 grams protein; 36 grams carbohydrates; 61.5 milligrams cholesterol; 990 milligrams sodium and 5 grams dietary fiber.


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