Genius Recipes

Jerry Traunfeld's Root Ribbons with Sage

By • February 17, 2012 • 34 Comments

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Every week, FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Winter vegetables get to pretend it's springtime.

root ribbons

- Kristen

We have certain, managed expectations of root vegetables, especially at this late stage in winter.

Gratins, mashes, and stews are perfectly noble ends for a thick clump of starch buried in the dirt. We accept their stodgy ways, add a bit of butter or some meaty broth, and get on with it. But it doesn't have to be that way.

root vegetables

In The Herbal Kitchen, James Beard and IACP award-winning chef Jerry Traunfeld teaches us how to make an old turnip feel like a kid again. (And we have FOOD52er Arathi to thank for leading us to him.)

We've already seen the varied and lovely things that can come from shaving zucchini, asparagus, or a whole motley plateful of vegetables into a salad. Here, Traunfeld does the same, but adds one more step. He cooks the wisps together, briefly and with restraint, so they stay full of life and sweetness.

jerry traunfeld  the herbal kitchen

As Tamar Adler explains in An Everlasting Meal, all root vegetables behave similarly when roasted: "Substitute any vegetable that grows with its leafy head aboveground for another." The same is true for when you've rendered them paper-thin. They cook faster but still in sync, whether you mix carrots with rutabagas, or turnips with parsley root.

(The single exception in all cases is beets, which are stricken to their own pink-stained ghetto. "No rules apply to beets. Beets have their own way of cooking and their own way of being," says Adler.)

peeling carrot  peeling rutabega  salsify

I will warn you: before you commit to this ribboning exercise, especially a full 6-serving batch, you should have a solid rapport with your vegetable peeler (or mandoline). I happen to have a punishing model with a hard-edged metal grip left over from culinary school -- it made me earn my ribbons the hard way. But Amanda has a cushiony, ergonomic version, pictured above, which makes the prep downright meditative. (Arathi and Traunfeld prefer these.)

Shave, quarter turn, shave, quarter turn, until you're left with a nicked-away stump that you can eat then and there, or save for stock. Other sensible alternatives: halve the batch or enlist a friend. You can also do this prep hours ahead without the roots fading to brown (except for burdock -- but there's really no hope for burdock).

root ribbons

Once you make it through the prep and have proud heaps of ribbons, you're home free, and about 15 minutes away from a fanciful winter meal. Melt butter and sage together; flick your ribbons through it; then pool some water, maple syrup, lemon, salt, and pepper in the pan. As the liquid steams away, it cooks the ribbons to al dente. When it's all gone, you're left with an orange and yellow jumble of fettuccine, glazed in its own sweet juices.

sage and butter  root ribbons with sage  sauteing root ribbons

Everything is painted in the light, buttery broth, but tastes of itself too -- the carrots angelic, the parsnip warmly spiced, the turnip a bit fierce. And there's nothing stodgy about any of it.

Jerry Traunfeld's Root Ribbons with Sage

From The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor (William Morrow, 2005)

Serves 6

2 pounds medium root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, burdock, rutabagas, yams, parsley root, or salsify (avoid beets)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup coarsely chopped sage
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

root ribbons with sage

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by Joseph De Leo

Tags: root vegetables, vegetarian, sage, carrot, parsnip, rutabaga, salsify, burdock, genius, side dish, special diets

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Comments (34)


about 3 years ago cookbookchick

Made this with sweet potatoes, parsnips, and a little turnip. (It was too hard to make ribbons from little round turnips without scraping my fingers!) So delicious and looked just as pretty as the photo!


about 3 years ago fearlessem

Where is the link to this recipe so that I can save it to my recipes here?


about 3 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

If you click through where it says "See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here." (or on any of the images of the recipe) it'll take you to the recipe page, where you can save to your recipes. Hope you like it!


about 3 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thank you all for your wonderful comments, and keep the genius tips coming! If it weren't for Arathi, we might never have seen this gem.


about 3 years ago Arathi

Yay! Lovely article, Kristen! You are awesome.


about 3 years ago KFS

Tried this last night, it was wonderful. While mine didn't look as beautiful as the picture the flavour was amazing, everyone at the table commented on them


about 3 years ago Amy Eddings

Wow, this looks great. Makes me want to run out and get some burdock. And why is there no help for burdock, anyway? No lemon juice to keep it from turning brown? Great recipe and presentation. Thank you.


about 3 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Amy, sorry I missed this question -- in my experience, burdock (like artichoke) starts to blacken as soon as it's exposed to air, but lemon does help slow it down.


about 3 years ago CharlieR

Hats off to Jerry!!

This is what I need all year round ............ lightened upped meals filled with nutrients and full of flavour!

So much healthier and delicious.

Thanks for sharing.



about 3 years ago BoulderGalinTokyo

Love the burdock in Japanese cooking, now I have a Western recipe too. Thank you!

FYI --Keep a large bowl of cold water on the side and as you slice the burdock root, place the ribbons in the water. The water will probably 'brown', just keep changing the water.


about 3 years ago Joy (My Turkish Joys)

Lovely dish! I've done zucchini noodles before, but never root vegetable noodles. Although we don't have a wide variety of root veggies here in Turkey, I can easily use carrots, turnips and celeriac for the dish. Afiyet olsun!


about 3 years ago Joy (My Turkish Joys)

Lovely dish! I've done zucchini noodles before, but never root vegetable noodles. Although we don't have a wide variety of root veggies here in Turkey, I can easily use carrots, turnips and celeriac for the dish. Afiyet olsun!


about 3 years ago LE BEC FIN

kitzer, i think you forgot the two little words>>Th_____- yo_

especially good to remember them after you correct someone's spelling.


about 3 years ago Trillinchick

Although we had a good-sized kitchen garden when I was a child, I don't remember root veggies (beyond potato, carrot), and have always feared the strength of turnips and rutabagas. For my Irish husband I learned how to make (but not love) "bubble and squeak" aka carrot and parsnips. This recipe for winter veggies allows me to use my training wheels first with the milder flavors - and without the ubiquitous "low sodium chick/veg broth" addition. The begs as noodles look enchanting enough that I could fool myself that I am consuming hard- core good stuff! I equally enjoy reading all my fellow cooks' comments, not something I usually "waste" time doing. Lastly, I just noticed your photograph. I wish it weren't so dark so that we could see the thus light of your genius ( unless you're moving toward NYT food critic status! ;-)
Btw, Bon Appetit is great for asking for recipes on readers' behalf.


about 3 years ago LE BEC FIN

This concept should be in everybody's "How to cook with kids" and "how to get kids to eat their veggies" books and articles,yes?


about 3 years ago LE BEC FIN

hey, if Jerry throws in some walnuts, he could win the next sage walnut competition!( joke, joke...)


about 3 years ago eat-drink-garden

Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. It's perfect for us right now, in Santa Barbara, with a home garden full of root vegetables!


about 3 years ago dinner at sheila's

I have Jerry Traunfeld's lovely book, and will be making this recipe soon after reading your article. I have made his Slow-Roasted Salmon with spring herb sauce which makes a wonderful winter diversion, tricking us into thinking it's spring.


about 3 years ago Lazyretirementgirl

I recently had a butternut squash "lasagne" with ribbons of squash used in lieu of noodles. It seems like a similar preparation. I wonder if you could track down a recipe for it? I have had no luck with google. Btw, I ate it at La Casa Sena in Santa Fe. Thanks!


about 3 years ago lksugarman

I just did a search of butternut squash lasagna and got results for Giada deLaurentiis, Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, etc., etc. (


about 3 years ago Kerryloves2travel

Great idea! Trying it tonight. Fun way to eat those winter root veggies! And so pretty won't miss the pasta.


about 3 years ago Glutenfreecook

I also had to create an account just to comment on this recipe and beautiful description. I love me the root veggies, too. I currently have a bowl full of said veg that I roasted in my frig. I will add this to my "try now" list. Thank you


about 3 years ago chef boyardee

When I 1st saw the pic I thought, wow I want some of those thick noodles with carrots....nut no noodles here. I love root vegetables. They are always welcome in my kitchen. Great recipe idea!


about 3 years ago Anitalectric

Anita is a vegan pastry chef & founder of Electric Blue Baking Co. in Brooklyn.

I want this RIGHT NOW!! Sounds nummy


about 3 years ago SKK

Kristen, you hit another ball out of the park! Love this recipe. Thank you for bringing to our attention.


about 3 years ago Waverly

Great choice for a genius recipe, Kristen. Shaving mixed roots gives these great standbys a lovely makeover. Not being a fan of beets myself, I am glad I have an excuse to leave them out of the mix!


about 3 years ago Carafe

Kristen, I just created an account to tell you that you write like a genius about food. Seems like these are superb recipes in their own right, and always classy, but you give them a whole other spin with your writing.

Would try this if I had any clue at all where I could find rutabega and salsify in Bombay. Haha.


about 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Officially in love, with root vegetables. And your writing Kristen. What a gorgeous plateful of delicate veggies with shining character!


about 3 years ago Tybee Tammie

I adore root veggies! This has my mouth watering just looking at it. Definitely on the menu this week. I might even be able to trick my son into eating it. I thought it was pasta!


about 3 years ago Fairmount_market

This looks great, and just in time for a pile of CSA parsnips. Also through my CSA I recently discovered salsify; an amazing little root (but I'm amazed that yours didn't turn brown instantaneously).


about 3 years ago carol_tanenbaum

Aside from the blissful combination of flavors, and the ideal fit for a meatless Monday meal, this recipe will work for a single eat or almost any other number of eaters -- as long as your shaving stamina holds up! Many thanks -- I'm going to make ASAP!


about 3 years ago Panfusine

I'm in heaven just reading this, Eating it would be paradise!


about 3 years ago caterinacucina

Absolutely wonderful! Every week I find new ways to use winter roots and foilage on my own blog and this is really nice!


about 3 years ago EmilyC

LOVE this dish -- can't wait to try it. And love your column -- I look forward to it every Friday!