Like sunchokes, burdock is another type of funny-looking root vegetable, with its own subtle, unique flavor. You look at the stuff and wonder, who was the first person who decided to try eating this??
It is "kind of" in season because this is a storage vegetable that was likely harvested last fall and kept in almost suspended animation until it landed in my first CSA box. So it's in season for us CSAers.
Burdock is a root that's used in Japanese cooking, and is also known as "gobo". The root is thought to be medicinal and confers all sorts of health benefits like helping with indigestion and detoxifying the liver. Learn more about burdock here or here.
The simplest way to incorporate burdock into your cooking is in stir fry and soup / stew recipes. The website, Conscious Choice, has a great article about the vegetable, along with recipes for Stir Fried Burdock & Carrots with Sesame and Soy, Brown Rice with Burdock & Mushrooms, and Crispy Rolls of Burdock with Prosciutto and Parmesan.
When I told a colleague who is an avid gardener that we were getting burdock root in our boxes, he looked at me like I was crazy, saying something along the lines of, "I spend a lot of time trying to get rid of those plants. Why would you want to eat it?"
And as I picked up my box the first week, one woman mentioned its "earthy" flavor while another suggested slicing it very thin before stir frying, as it has a somewhat tough texture.
So I was feeling a sense of trepidation about trying this root vegetable and seriously did not look forward to cooking it.
We finally prepared it on Monday night, and you know what? I think all of the burdock talk was much ado about nothing. We prepared the recipe, Stir-Fried Carrots and Burdock with Sesame Seeds from Deborah Madison's cookbook, Local Flavors, and it was quite tasty in the end.
I think this has to do with the cooking method - you cut the burdock into matchsticks, soak it in water and parboil it before stir frying it with other vegetables. The parboiling made the burdock much more tender.
We modified Deborah's original recipe by peeling the burdock (you don't have to do this, the skin can be eaten too if you wish to skip this step), upping the liquid quantities, adding red pepper strips, and garnishing it with thinly sliced scallions. This gave the dish a more pleasing look. We served this stir fry as a main entree over white rice, with a side of soy-glazed baby bok choy.
The recipe's preparation method is a bit fussy, so it feels more like a weekend meal than a weeknight option, at least for us.
Stir-Fried Carrots, Burdock and Red Peppers with Toasted Sesame Seeds & Scallions
adapted from Deborah Madison's cookbook, Local Flavors
2-3 burdock roots
3 carrots, peeled or 1 cup bagged matchstick pre-cut carrots
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or light sesame oil
3 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
Green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
Scrub and peel the burdock. Thinly slice on the diagonal, then slice pieces into matchsticks. Put them in a bowl of water to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, parboil them for 1 minute, and drain.
If you are using whole carrots, peel and slice into matchsticks. Combine mirin and soy sauce. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet until golden (about 5-10 minutes on medium heat), then immediately dump them onto a plate to cool.
Heat oil in wok or large skillet, add the roasted sesame oil and swirl around in the pan. When the pan is hot, stir fry the burdock for 2-3 minutes. Add a little more than 1/4 cup water, cover the pan and steam for 5 minutes, then add the carrots and red peppers and stir fry for 2-3 minutes longer. Pour in the soy-mirin mixture and continue to stir fry until the veggies are glazed, after several more minutes.
Toss with toasted sesame seeds and garnish with sliced green onions. This dish can be served hot or at room temperature.
Is burdock just getting a bad rap? You should try it too and tell me what you think.