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 colors, textures and flavors.
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 cleanup. 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 flavor, 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 yogurt are all great dairy contenders. For those looking for a nondairy 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, stock or even alcohol — as needed.
While just salt and butter can go a long way in flavoring 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 flavor. 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 flavors 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. 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 flavor.
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