Sweet, tender, toasty parsnip matchsticks hidden in a tangle of bitter spring greens, punctuated with crunchy nuts and sharp creamy cheese—this is early spring in a bowl. The tangy, bright dressing mitigates the sweetness of the parsnips and the bitterness of the greens. Serve on its own as a light lunch or top with a fried egg for something more substantial. The parsnips could stand as a side dish all on their own, so feel free to double or triple that portion of the recipe and serve them tossed with minced herbs and garlic alongside a chicken or whole roasted fish.
4 spring-dug parsnips, peeled, cored and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks, ½ inch wide
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon whole-seed mustard
½ teaspoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon local cider vinegar
½ cup walnut oil or olive oil
1 cup raw whole hazelnuts
8 cups watercress or arugula or both (or any salad green you like)
2 ounces blue cheese, like Great Hill Blue or Bayley Hazen Blue
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss the parsnip matchsticks with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season heartily with salt and pepper. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast, stirring/flipping occasionally, until tender and browned at the edges, about 30 minutes (check at the 20-minute mark; they could be done depending on the power of your oven).
Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a small bowl, stir together the shallot, mustards, maple syrup and vinegar with ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I like a lot of coarse pepper to bring some heat to the salad, so I use ½ teaspoon cracked pepper). Let the shallot macerate in the vinegar for at least 5 minutes, then whisk in the oil. Set aside until ready to dress the salad.
When the parsnips are almost ready, toast the nuts in the hot oven for 8–10 minutes, until fragrant and browned. When cool enough to handle, rub the skins from the nuts between your palms. Set aside.
Assemble the salad in a large bowl: Layer the salad greens and the roasted parsnips with the nuts, crumble the blue cheese over the top and dress—you may not need all the dressing, so add it a few teaspoons at a time and toss to coat the leaves. Serve immediately.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org