Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: Even if Jack Frost isn’t nipping at your nose yet, you can still enjoy a slice of winter in your kitchen.
When you were a kid, did you revel in catching snowflakes on your mitten to admire them? (We still do.) Were you determined to make the prettiest, most perfect cut-paper snowflakes? (Us too.) If so, it’s time to bring lotus root into your kitchen. While this root (technically a rhizome) might not look like much from the outside, it’s hiding a beautiful lacy interior that when sliced (3, below) reminds us of a snowflake. A tasty, crunchy, edible snowflake. The overachiever in you might like to know that the plant's flowers, leaves, and seeds are all edible, too.
More: Like produce that's hiding something? Try parsley root: it's the herb's dirty little secret.
Look for fresh lotus roots in a well-stocked Asian market. They should be firm and light brown (1); pass on any with soft spots, cracks, or blemishes. They might come linked together in a chain (2) like giant sausages -- if you purchase multiple sections, don’t separate the links. Store lotus root in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp cloth or paper towels in a plastic bag. They’re at their best when very fresh, but can be stored for a couple of weeks.
To prepare your root, peel it with a vegetable peeler first. Many preparations call for thin slices; if yours does, use a mandolin or sharp knife. Preserve their snowy white color by dropping cut slices in an acidulated water bath (4), and if you aren’t planning on cooking them, let them hang out there for awhile -- this has the added benefit of removing any potential bitter aftertaste.
Fry ‘Em Up
Think everything's better fried? Lotus root is no exception. Turn them into tasty root chips or try them as tempura. You can also use slices to hold a ground meat or vegetable filling (like a sandwich) and then pan- or deep-fry them.
Lotus root can be poached in dashi broth and packed in your lunch box, and it also works well in soups -- just be aware that the longer lotus root is cooked, the starchier and stickier it gets.
Candy them and then use them in Diane Morgan’s upside-down lotus root cake, found in Roots, or stuff them with sweet black rice and serve them with honey and Greek yogurt.
Let it snow in your kitchen this week -- tell us how you’ll work lotus root into your meals!
Photos by James Ransom