Have you ever heard of salsify? It's also known as tragopogon, goatsbeard, or oyster plant. Up until now I've only seen this root vegetable on restaurant menus. It's a vegetable that chefs love to experiment with. You can't find salsify in the supermarket, but you can find it in farmers' markets as I did at the Union square Greenmarket. Salsify stands out among the crowd of root vegetables that it's hard not to take an interest in cooking with them.
The most simple way to enjoy salsify is as a side dish and my favorite is tossing it in a little vinaigrette. It has a subtle flavor that some liken to oysters or artichokes. I think it tastes most like artichoke hearts. But if you think salsify tastes like oysters, then you will love this recipe, because the vinaigrette is almost like a mignonette sauce, and when the salsify is chilled, it tastes even more like oysters.
Salsify resembles parsley root but with broad grass-like leaves, almost like a weed. It has purple flowers when it blooms. One thing to pay attention to is that salsify browns immediately when sliced or peeled. One way to get around this is to cook the root without peeling and then just peel after. Or keep the peeled roots in acidulated water until ready to cook. The roots also release a sticky milky sap or sometimes a blood-red sap. Don't be alarmed if it's red, the vegetable isn't possessed.
Salsify with Sherry Vinaigrette
for the salsify:
1-1/2 pounds salsify
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
fine sea salt
for the sherry vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon sherry vinaigrette
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pan with 2 inches of water, lemon juice, bay leaf, and peppercorns to a boil.
Meanwhile, quickly prepare the salsify by cutting off the leaves and peeling. Immediately add to the pan. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar, oil, shallot, and parsley until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
Once cooked, remove the salsify to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Cut into segments and toss with vinaigrette. Serve either warm or chilled. Yield: 4 servings as a side dish or appetizer.