THE WASHINGTON POST – A bowl of buttery, creamy mashed potatoes is a thing of beauty and elegance. But spuds aren’t the only vegetables you should mash. Root vegetables – such as rutabagas, parsnips and turnips – are the first to come to mind, but from cauliflower to spring peas, there’s a wide range of vegetables primed for mashing. And if you’re not ready to commit to ditching the potato altogether, you can mix and match them with other vegetables for an interplay of colours, textures and flavours.
In starting your mashing journey, we recommend avoiding stringy vegetables that could negatively impact the texture of the finished dish, such as asparagus or celery.
Depending on the particular ingredients, you should either peel them or make sure they’re clean by scrubbing them under running water with a produce brush (or at least giving them a good rinse). Next, it is important that the vegetables are uniform shapes and sizes to promote even cooking. This task for an ingredient like peas is done by nature, but others will require a bit of knife work.
Once prepped, boil or roast your vegetable(s) of choice until very soft but not mushy. If making a combo mash, take into consideration the rate at which the different ingredients will cook so one doesn’t become baby food while the other still is almost raw.
Deciding betwixt boiling and roasting comes down to whether you want a uniform smoothness (boil) or a bit more textural contrast from browned edges (roast). If boiling is the method of choice, remember to let the vegetables dry after cooking. My preferred method to expel excess moisture is to return the drained vegetables to the pot over low heat and stir for a minute or two before proceeding.
Once softened, then you can mash. I often opt for a potato masher because I like rustic texture and it cuts down on clean-up. If you don’t own one or just want a bit more of a workout, then a wooden spoon and brute force will do the trick. But should you desire a smooth, silken puree, then a food processor is the way to go.
When it comes to flavour, fat is a good place to start. Not only does it add taste, but it also lends a luxurious mouthfeel. Butter, heavy cream, cheese, sour cream, creme fraiche and yoghurt are great dairy contenders. For those looking for a non-dairy option, extra-virgin olive oil – and I’m talking the good stuff here that you’d use for salad dressings or to drizzle on top of a dish just before serving – is my recommendation. Then, depending on the desired consistency, you can add liquid – such as milk or stock – as needed.
While just salt and butter can go a long way in flavouring your mash, your entire kitchen pantry is at your disposal. A couple cloves of garlic thrown into the mix can work wonders. Fresh or dried herbs can work as a garnish sprinkled on top or be used to infuse milk or cream with extra flavour. While not always applicable depending upon the vegetables used, citrus can work wonders to add acidity and brightness. And let’s not forget about the myriad seasonings you have hiding out in your cupboard. Who knows what uniquely delicious flavours you can come up with!
If in your mind you’re wanting the same taste and texture of mashed potatoes but with less calories, then you will likely be disappointed in tasting these alternative dishes ‘cause nothing compares. But when you are able to liberate yourself from the hold potatoes have on your notion of what mashed vegetables should be, you are free to enjoy the wonders of what these other vegetables bring.
VEGAN CELERY ROOT MASH
Active time: 15 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes
Four to six servings
Celery root, aka celeriac, is a gnarly looking root vegetable, but once you get past its rough exterior, you’ll find a neutral-tasting interior with a hint of celery. For those looking to eat fewer carbs, it is popular to use it in place of some of the spuds in traditional mashed potatoes without altering the texture too much.
While I am a fan of any dish that’s a vessel for butter and cream, this recipe is not that. Instead, it showcases the celery root and lets it shine without the aid of dairy. This simple mash brightens the vegetable’s subtle taste with the addition of lemon zest and juice, and good extra-virgin olive oil adds both fat and flavour. Mash by hand for a more rustic texture, or puree in a food processor for a smoother consistency.
For serving, an extra drizzle of olive oil and a few more grinds of black pepper are welcome. If your celery root happens to come with leaves attached, chop them as a nice green garnish. If not, flat leaf parsley will do the trick.
Storage Notes: The mash can be refrigerated for up to three days.
Two pounds celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into roughly one-inch chunks
Kosher salt, to taste
Quarter cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
One tablespoon juice plus one teaspoon finely grated zest from one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh celery leaves or parsley leaves, for garnish
In a medium pot, combine the celery root and a generous pinch of salt, and add enough water to cover. Place the pot on the stove, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, skimming off any impurities that float to the top, until a fork easily slides into the celery root with little to no resistance, about 20 minutes.
Drain the celery root, return to the pot to low heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, to get rid of excess moisture, one to two minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the olive oil, lemon juice and zest. Using a potato masher, mash to reach your desired consistency, adding more oil as needed.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, top with an extra drizzle of olive oil, a few more cracks of black pepper and the celery or parsley leaves, and serve.
Nutrition (based on six servings) | Calories: 151; Total Fat: 10g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 175mg; Carbohydrates: 14g; Dietary Fibre: 3g; Sugar: 3g; Protein: 2g.