Saturday, November 19, 2011

Roasted Parsnips with Cranberries and Orange

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of my favorite time of year for holidays. Not only is it the lead-up to my favorite holiday of all - Christmas (be sure to enter my holiday giveaway) - but it boasts some of the best seasonal cooking of the year. Thanksgiving is one time of year in particular when tried and true family recipes come out in full force. Americans plumb the depths of our collective holiday consciousness to recall favorite side dishes, desserts, and traditions.

Every family in America has their own traditions for this special holiday and my family is no different. It just isn't Thanksgiving for me without my mother's cranberry relish: a chunky, less-sweet alternative to cranberry jelly; my grandmother's pork and chestnut stuffing and her amazing mince tarts: both a loving homage to her British heritage and one we carry on today as we still, sixteen years after her passing, miss her deeply... especially at the holidays.

The two years I was living in Italy I tried my best to carry on my family's Thanksgiving traditions. The first year I was a student on study abroad where I was fortunate to be part of the school's organized potluck for American students and their Italian roommates. We shared the most enormous turkey I have ever seen in my entire life and everyone brought something traditional from their family. My neighbor made her family's corn and jalepeno soup, I made Mom's cranberry relish (she had to ship me the cranberries, of course!), and other students brought pies, side dishes, and wine. It was a lovely feast and a wonderful sense of camaraderie was shared - exactly what we all missed from home.
Valentina, Maya, me, Veronica, Stefano - the four student roommates and our gentleman escort
The next year I was on my own, working in Bologna, and living with roommates. I had invited my three roommates and my then-boyfriend to come over for a dinner that I would prepare: a roast chicken, cranberry relish, vegetables, Grammie's stuffing. Since it was just another day in Italy my boyfriend had to work and one roommate had a late class. My other two roommates came home and decided they didn't feel like eating what I made and made their own dinners. By the time my last roommate, Martina, came home from her evening class I was dejected and terribly homesick for that special warmth of being surrounded by those you love. Martina handed me a small box of tropical fruit flavored teas saying, "I didn't know if this was a gift giving holiday or not." Her gesture of kindness brought me to tears and I hugged her tight and made her a huge plate of food. This November marks eleven years since that meager Thanksgiving and Martina and I are still friends, despite the ocean between our two homelands.

Me and Marty in front of my favorite piazza in Bologna - Santo Stefano - on my last trip to Italy 2008
That's what this holiday is all about, really. Sharing with those we love and sharing with those in our lives. Even if our opinions, or cultures, seem to clash we can all come together at the table and give thanks for the simple pleasure of being able to enjoy a meal together. This side dish is exactly that - several flavors that may seem at first glance to clash with each other (the first time my husband saw all the ingredients together on the counter he said, "you're going to put that together?") but after a little oven alchemy they turn into culinary gold.

If you've never had parsnips before they look like white carrots but have a spicier, earthier flavor. If you're not sure if your family will like this dish you can substitute carrots for up to half of the parsnips (but you may want to reduce the brown sugar by a tablespoon or so since roasted carrots are so sweet).

Roasted Parsnips with Cranberries and Orange - serves 6-8
2lbs parsnips, julienned
6 tbs butter (or vegan substitute)
1.5 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over.
1 cup leek, sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar (do not pack)
2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp thyme
zest of 1 orange
salt and pepper, to taste
2 oranges, supreme

Preheat oven to 375ยบ F

Melt butter. Add sugar, ginger powder, orange zest, thyme, salt and pepper. Combine well.

Julienne carrots. Combine with sliced leeks and well rinsed cranberries. Pour melted butter-sugar mixture over vegetables and toss to combine well.

Cover with foil and roast for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue roasting for another 15-20 minutes or until parsnips are tender. Garnish with orange sections and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans at home and abroad and a very big thank you to all my international friends who have celebrated with me either at home or when I lived abroad. Friends together at the table is what makes life special!



  1. This was a very good read. Holidays do have a way of making you reflect on special moments in the past. Also a reminder that we should always cherish true friends and family.
    I also like this recipe-not many out there for parsnips, but the ingredient list does intrigue.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving if our comments don't cross again until after and enjoy this weekend to. Lastly I did answer the question you had on my last post, sorry for the delay.

  2. This is such a unique dish! I love that you were keeping up the TG tradition even while traveling abroad! :)

  3. Looks glorious!
    And I love the stories - for me it's the reverse, of course, I am only now really learning all that belongs to Thanksgiving. And I still haven't loved to learn cranberries! But parnsips I know all too well from home, what a nice twist :)

  4. I've never had roasted parsnips before, but it sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing your recipe and your fond memories of Thanksgiving!

  5. OMG GIRL! This looks SO STINKIN GOOD!!!!!! I want to try it!!! <3

  6. That leek with the tart-sweet form the cranberries sounds wonderful! Beautiful dish!

  7. I love parsnips, but I have never seen them prepared this festively! They sound amazing, perfect for a Thanksgiving spread!

  8. Looks great. I bet adding a turnip or celeriac would be great as well. Great mix of citrus and root.

  9. That is such a pretty color when all cooked and done. I will have to try this out. Thanks for sharing!

  10. That looks SO amazing! What a lovely post on Thanksgiving, too! I was lucky enough to live in Sicily for 3 years.... it's amazing what close friendships you can develop when you live overseas, isn't it? Happy Thanksgiving - this is a terrific recipe!

  11. What a lovely post Jess! Happy Thanksgiving! and thanks for sharing this delicious recipe! :)

  12. What a lovely post...I remember the emptiness of my first Christmas away from wonderful you had friends with whom to share those memorable Thanksgivings. Such a gorgeous holiday side dish!!! Have a happy Thanksgiving!!!!

  13. Beautiful post!! It almost brought me to tears! I love parsnips, this recipe looks delicious :-)

  14. I love this post! Martina is a winner, and so are you :)


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