Maple-glazed root vegetables, slightly sweet, and a charming accompaniment to wintertime suppers, satisfy hungry bellies in a deep and nourishing way. Parsnips, celeriac, and carrots pair beautifully well together, and their natural vegetal sweetness marries well with maple syrup - Amber colored and sweet with faint notes of spice.
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Carrots and parsnips are widely available during winter months, and are rich in micronutrients including many antioxidants. Parsnips are a good source of vitamin C and food folate, which is essential to fetal development and reproductive health while carrots are rich in the antioxidant and vitamin pre-cursor, beta carotene.
Making Maple-Glazed Root Vegetables
To make maple-glazed root vegetables, you'll start by peeling the celeriac, parsnips and carrots. While root vegetables' peels are edible, they can be tough instead of tender - and after sautéing in hot fat and simmering away in a glaze of maple syrup and orange juice, you want these vegetables to be resoundingly tender. Cut them into roughly the same size pieces, about ¼-inch thick and 2-inches long so that they cook evenly and have a pleasing, uniform appearance. Uneven cuts make for uneven cooking and inconsistent results.
Add the orange zest and the fresh thyme just at the very end of cooking, right before you glaze the vegetables so that they retain their freshness and their vitality. Then pour in the orange juice and maple syrup and let it bubble and froth in the pan until it reduces down to a fine glaze, about the consistency of honey, that slips ever so delicately across your vegetables. Toss with hazelnuts for crunch, toasting them beforehand if you like.
Because the glaze on these root vegetables is acidic, coming from fresh oranges, avoid using a cast iron skillet. Uncoated cast iron will leach when paired with acidic ingredients like oranges, and may discolor your vegetables or give them an unpleasant, faint metallic flavor. Instead, enameled cast iron works beautifully for dishes like this one as it keeps an even heat, doesn't stick and doesn't leach the way that uncoated cast iron does. You can also use a high-quality stainless steel skillet, too.
The Goodness in Maple-Glazed Root Vegetables
Root vegetables like parsnips, carrots and celeriac are particularly rich in complex carbohydrates and prebiotics that help to nourish the beneficial microbes in your gut. Moreover, they are also rich in folate, a nutrient that is critical for women of reproductive age, and various minerals like manganese. Manganese is a nutrient that, in combination with other nutrients like calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, helps to support bone health; further, it is also a potent antioxidant (1).
Carrots are also rich in beta carotene, a strong antioxidant and a precursor to vitamin A. But in order to get the most benefit from this nutrient, you need to pair it with fat because it is fat-soluble. And that's exactly what you do when you make this recipe: partnering antioxidant-rich vegetables with wholesome fats like ghee and olive oil which not only have their own nutritive properties but also help you absorb those antioxidants even more effectively.
Lastly, the maple syrup itself - while still a concentrated source of sugars - is rich in various minerals including zinc, manganese, calcium, and potassium. Further, it is also a source of inulin which is a prebiotic (2).
What to Serve with Maple Glazed Root Vegetables
Parsnips, carrots and celeriac are available in the autumn and winter months, though you may find them out of season in the grocery store throughout the year. Maple Glazed Root Vegetables are a classic addition on our family's Thanksgiving table, but they also make a surprisingly good addition to the breakfast or brunch tables. If you're looking for a few ways to serve this recipe, here's some of our favorite ideas:
Make a big brunch and serve it with fried eggs, bacon, and an Autumn Fruit Salad.
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- Coassin, M et al. “Antioxidant effect of manganese.” Archives of biochemistry and biophysics vol. 299,2 (1992)
- Sun, Jiadong et al. “Detection of Inulin, a Prebiotic Polysaccharide, in Maple Syrup.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 64,38 (2016): 7142-7.