Taro admittedly has a gruff exterior which may be the reason many people stay away from this vegetable. I did for a long time, until my Egyptian-born friend Phoebe pointed to a bag of frozen taro cubes (with a seasoning packet) in the freezer section of the Middle-Eastern store; she exclaimed happily “kolkass“and immediately grabbed a bag and threw it in her cart. Egyptians are fond of it and eat it as a stew with chard and lamb shanks. In Lebanon, taro is shaped like a short and round potato. In the US I have seen taro shaped like a thick brown carrot (it looks like a branch of a tree) or like a turnip with a brown and coarse outer covering.
Taro is a very nutritious vegetable (lots of fiber) and tastes good; it can replace potatoes in just about any dish. It needs to be thoroughly cooked though and when peeled initially should be kept in a bowl filled with water and a squeeze of lemon juice otherwise it darkens.
This recipe is Turkish and adapted from Al tabekh al-turki from Sima Othman Yassine.
INGREDIENTS: 4 servings
4 taro roots shaped like a turnip (which makes it easier to stuff)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
1 potato (can replace with a turnip), peeled and diced small
1 bunch green onions (4 scallions), chopped fine
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup rice (medium-grain, starchy such as Italian, Turkish, Egyptian, etc), soaked in a bowl of water for 20 minutes
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dry dill
salt, to taste
1 bouillon cube (optional), chicken or veggie
1. Peel the taro roots and immediately dunk in a large pot filled with water and the juice of half a lemon. Bring to a simmer and cook over gentle heat for about 20 minutes until a knife inserted in the taro comes out easily and they are cooked. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and gently fry the diced potato, carrot and green onions till they “sweat” and become tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the rice and add to the mixture along with one cup of water, the dill and some salt. Simmer another 15 minutes.
2. Remove the taro from the pot, cool a few minutes then core. Reserve the inside pulp for another recipe, to throw in a soup or to add to fritters or scrambled eggs. Fill the taro with the rice and veggie mixture. If desired, you can cut off the top and use it after stuffing to cap the taro; leave about 1/2″ inch of space after stuffing to allow the rice to expand a bit.
3. Place the taro back in the pot, add one or more cups of water if needed with a bouillon cube, cover and bring to a simmer. Add 1/4 cup of oil, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice as well. Simmer for about 20 minutes; serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: Baste the taro with the broth as it is cooking a few times. I added some chopped fresh mint to the herb mixture.