Parsnips: great ideas for a misunderstood veggie

Parsnips are vegetables that prove a baffler to some cooks. Often lumped with turnips and rutabagas in the "what should I do with these?" category, they are looking so fresh and lovely at the market right now that it pays to experiment with them.  

The sweetness of carrots and the earthiness of potatoes make perfect companions for the parallel flavor of parsnips. Roast with olive oil and garlic and serve as an accompaniment to a whole roasted chicken for a super homey dinner. Here's another nice and easy recipe:

Mashed potatoes and parsnips
What you need:

1 pound peeled and cubed potatoes (Yukon golds work well)
1 pound peeled and cubed parsnips
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb. bacon crisped and crumbled, 2 tbsp. of grease reserved
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves roasted garlic, optional
Fresh snipped herbs such as rosemary, chives, parsley, or thyme, optional

What you do:

Boil potatoes and parsnips in salted water until tender. Drain and return to pot. Mash with butter, cream, salt and pepper, bacon grease, and garlic. Use a hand blender if you want them smoother. Heat to desired temperature and garnish with fresh herbs.

Since this is salad weather, another idea is to shave your raw parsnips very thinly--use a mandolin if you have one--toss with watercress or arugula and a red wine/shallot vinaigrette and garnish with fresh dates. 

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