Parsnips star in family reunion

Leah Eskin
Chicago Tribune (TNS)

Family gatherings come in all sizes, and ours is XS. Mom, her three, our spouses and children make 14. One tableful.

Mom decided we would celebrate Ben’s 50th, though the date had come and gone. She declared it Margo’s 50th too, though hers was a year away.

Mom had ordered hats, and she ordered us to wear them. Laila slid the plush white chicken over her hair, letting its yellow legs dangle below her shoulders. She rocked that chicken. The rest of us snapped into goldfish, panda, elephant.

We turned up the music, slurped down the Jell-O shots; we retold bad jokes and good stories. We pulled up our chairs for salmon, lamb and couscous. Also parsnips, who had convened their own family reunion, inviting in their cousins carrots, parsley and cumin. They wore sauce.

Hats askew, we sang “Happy Birthday,” twice and lit 100 candles. We all breathed in, leaned in and gazed into the glow. Our gathering didn’t seem small, but vast and brilliant.

Parsnip Family Reunion

This savory (and slightly sweet) side dish unites parsnips, carrots, parsley and cumin, all members of the Apiaceae family.

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

1 pound small parsnips (about 8), peeled, trimmed

1 pound carrots (about 6), peeled, trimmed

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

6 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

Boil: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add whole parsnips and carrots. Cook until tender (test by poking with a fork), 15-17 minutes.

Mash: Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle (or heavy knife) smash together garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Whisk together with orange juice, oil and lemon juice. Set aside.

Slice: When vegetables are cooked, drain. Note: Small parsnips should have tender cores about the diameter of a pencil. If you find wide, woody cores, slice the parsnip lengthwise, cut out and discard the core. Slice parsnips and carrots crosswise on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick ovals.

Caramelize: Set a wide skillet (or two) over medium heat. Melt in butter. Slide in sliced parsnips and carrots. Cook, turning now and then, until most of the slices have turned golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Deglaze: Pour in the orange juice mixture. Reduce heat to low; cook, tossing, 1 minute.

Serve: Slide everything into a serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley (and more salt and pepper if need be). Enjoy at room temperature.