Editors' Picks

Jerry Traunfeld's Root Ribbons with Sage

February 17, 2012

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

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- 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 carrotpeeling rutabegasalsify

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 butterroot ribbons with sagesauteing 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


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • fearlessem
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
  • Arathi
  • KFS
  • Amy Eddings
    Amy Eddings
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


fearlessem February 27, 2012
Where is the link to this recipe so that I can save it to my recipes here?
Kristen M. February 27, 2012
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!
Kristen M. February 26, 2012
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.
Arathi February 22, 2012
Yay! Lovely article, Kristen! You are awesome.
KFS February 21, 2012
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
Amy E. February 20, 2012
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.
Kristen M. February 26, 2012
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.
CharlieR February 20, 2012
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.

BoulderGalinTokyo February 20, 2012
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.
Joy (. February 20, 2012
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!
Joy (. February 20, 2012
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!
LeBec F. February 19, 2012
kitzer, i think you forgot the two little words>>Th_____- yo_

especially good to remember them after you correct someone's spelling.
Trillinchick February 19, 2012
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.
LeBec F. February 19, 2012
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?
LeBec F. February 19, 2012
hey, if Jerry throws in some walnuts, he could win the next sage walnut competition!( joke, joke...)
eat-drink-garden February 19, 2012
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!
dinner A. February 19, 2012
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.
Lazyretirementgirl February 19, 2012
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!
lksugarman February 19, 2012
I just did a search of butternut squash lasagna and got results for Giada deLaurentiis, Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, etc., etc. (https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ie=UTF-8&ion=1#hl=en&gs_nf=1&tok=VxmMtp4a68uNmQPuDq417Q&cp=18&gs_id=7&xhr=t&q=butternut+squash+lasagna&pf=p&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&pbx=1&oq=butternut+squash+l&aq=0&aqi=g4&aql=&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=7f381450be81b469&biw=1248&bih=679&ion=1)
Kerryloves2travel February 19, 2012
Great idea! Trying it tonight. Fun way to eat those winter root veggies! And so pretty won't miss the pasta.
Glutenfreecook February 19, 2012
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

chef B. February 19, 2012
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!
Anitalectric February 19, 2012
I want this RIGHT NOW!! Sounds nummy