Taro root with spinach

March 9, 2010  • 

Taro root is a vegetable that is commonly used in Lebanon, especially during Lent. It is cultivated locally and  known as kolkass; I know from my Egyptian friend Phoebe that the Egyptians love it too; in fact, when I stopped by the Palestinian grocer I found bags of Taro root in the freezer imported from Egypt, all cut up with a spice packet included for a paltry $1.40.

According to Wikipedia, it is one of the oldest vegetable known to man; judging by its gnarled and downright repulsive aspect, I have no problem believing that cave-man AKA Fred Flintstone, used to eat it for a snack. Don’t let appearances fool you, however; this is a “good for you” veggie, recommended by all the higher authorities on health. It is sold everywhere, I found it at Target, Asian and Latino markets, mid-eastern grocers, even plain old American supermarkets and health food stores.

Taro is prepared in several ways in Lebanon; its texture is similar to potatoes,  but it has a very pleasant and distinct flavor: so, as I was saying, it is cooked with lentils, or lamb shanks or even with a tahini and Seville orange sauce. You can substitute it with turnips, rutabagas, or  potatoes.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I decided to be lazy all the way, using what is in the kitchen already. I am making a stew with taro, spinach, cilantro pesto and serving it over rice. I made the cilantro pesto fresh, but if you have some stashed away in the freezer, now is the time to dump it into the stew.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bag of frozen cut up Taro root (or one pound of fresh taro, peeled, cut in cubes and dipped in a bowl of water with a squirt of lemon)
  • 1 small bag of chopped frozen spinach (about 10 ounces); substitute any greens like swiss chard.
  • 1  large onion, chopped
  • 1 can of chick peas, rinsed thoroughly.
  • 1 rib of celery.
  • 1/4 cup (or more) of cilantro pesto (recipe follows)
  • 1 small cube of vegetable bouillon diluted in 6 cups of water (optional)
  • quartered lemons to squeeze over the stew (optional)

If using fresh taro root, I would recommend using gloves and after peeling it, you should dump it into a bowl filled with water and a squirt of a lemon.

For the vermicelli rice: Optional you can eat it as is! (no rice)

This is the traditional side dish with a stew in Lebanon; you can forego the rice and use bread or any other grain of your choice.

  • 1 1/2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1 cup of cut Vermicelli noodles AKAfideos
  • 2 tablespoons of oil or butter, a dash of salt

Instructions on making rice: Please refer to the post on lamb shanks with peas & carrots.

METHOD:  Make the cilantro pesto:

  1. Grab a bunch of cilantro, wash and dry it and chop off the stems. Chop the cilantro as fine as possible and set aside.
  2. Mash the garlic with a dash of salt.
  3. Heat some olive oil, add the cilantro and garlicand fry the mixture for one minute or so. Set aside.

Make the taro stew:

 

  1. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped onions. Cover the pan for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and then uncover the pan and let the onions get some golden color.
  2. Add the taro to the pan (frozen or fresh), stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add 6 cups of water (to which a cube of veggie bouillon has been added),the rib of celery,  cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach, the chick peas, the cilantro pesto and uncover the pan to simmer 10 minutes more until the water has evaporated and the stew has gotten more compact.
  4. Season to taste, serve as is or with rice or bread.

Comments

28 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Faith says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had taro root…I am definitely intrigued, so I’ll be on the lookout for it when I go grocery shopping next. Sounds like a lovely combination of flavors in this dish!

  2. T.W. Barritt says:

    I’ve heard of taro root but never tried it. It looks like a starchy vegetable but maybe a more distinctive flavor than potatoes?

  3. Stella says:

    Your cauliflower is so beautiful with those colors in it, and this sounds delicious. That Taro and cilantro pesto is so interesting too. I never knew how to use taro, so thank you. I won’t be afraid of it next time I see it at the health food store.

  4. Ciaochowlinda says:

    I only had taro root once in Hawaii, so this is really a new vegetable to me. Thanks for stopping by my blog and giving me the chance to find yours and discover a whole different type of cuisine. I’ll be perusing your blog to see what you cook up.

  5. Mimi says:

    I haven’t had taro before , but now I am curious and want to try this.
    Mimi

  6. Barbara Bakes says:

    Such an interesting post. I have never tried taro root. Your meal looks fresh, healthy and delicious!

  7. sweetlife says:

    how interesting..I have made cilantro pesto before and love it but with taro root..yummy!! shirley temple really?? I loved her!!

    sweetlife

  8. Sushma Mallya says:

    Very healthy one & looks delicious ….love your step by step procedure too…

  9. Danielle says:

    You had me at cilantro paste (love cilantro) but your description of taro root has me intrigued. I’ll be looking for this veggie the next time I go shopping! This recipe sounds so good!

  10. Ivy says:

    I love taro and wish I could find it in Greece. In Greece it is not known, except for Ikaria island. In Cyprus we call it kolokassi and we usually stew it with celery and onions and also cook it with pork.

  11. Priya says:

    Never tried taro root like this, pesto sounds truly fantastic and yummy!!

  12. Rosa says:

    That is an interesting use of taro roots! I bet this dish tastes wonderful!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  13. Sook @ My Fabulous Recipes says:

    Oh a different kind of pesto! Looks so healthy and delicious!

  14. Barbara says:

    Fascinating post, Joumana. I’ve had taro root in Hawaii in the form of poi. It lacked interest and I imagine needs to be served with lots of flavors…which you seem to have combined in your recipe. Looks good!

  15. The Little Teochew says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. That is an amazing dish! These taro roots are so readily available here in Singapore. I always cut them up into cubes and cook with rice, like I did today. But your dish looks phenomenal!

  16. theUngourmet says:

    I’ve seen taro in the store but I’ve never tried cooking with it. Your recipe looks so fresh and delicious!

  17. Julie says:

    Je ne connais pas du tout les racines de “taro” (je ne trouve pas de traduction, ça se dit peut-être comme ça en français) mais ça me fait penser un peu aux panais et rutabagas effectivement. J’aime bien découvrir de nouveaux produits, avec tes recettes c’est gagné à chaque fois!
    Des bisous!

    • Joumana says:

      Julie
      J’ai vu une recette dans un bouquin de cuisine libanaise qui l’appelait topinambour; c’est peut-être ça!

  18. Nadjibella says:

    Je n’ai jamais cuisiné de taro . J’en trouverai peut-être dans les magasins chinois.
    Je ne l’aurai pas pris pour du topinambour que j’aime beaucoup.
    A bientôt.

  19. Arlette says:

    wow its been ages since I ate something like this…..
    I love Taro root with tahini / KilKas bi tahini , its the right timing now since
    I am cooking vegetarian meals most of the time…

    great photos.. its a great posting…
    Good that you still remember most of our food.

  20. Wizzythestick says:

    Taro root is called dasheen in the Caribbean and it’s a favourite here too. I like looking at the different ways various cultures have for using this root vegetable. We cook the leaves as well.

  21. Murasaki Shikibu says:

    These are very common in Japan and an integral part of Japanese cuisine.

    In some ‘cult’ Japanese restaurants, they will just have some of these that are steamed or boiled with their skin on and you eat them with just a bit of good quality sea salt. The skin is cut in such a way so that if you put a little pressure on them they pop out of their skin.

    They can also be cooked in a fish broth with Konbu and flavored very delicately.

    I guess the idea was to make sure the flavors were subtle so you could taste the taro root more intensely.

    Back home we used to eat them dipped in soy sauce, but gourmet people wouldn’t recommend this because soy sauce is too overpowering. 😉

  22. cheffresco says:

    We love cilantro, but never can seem to use it all before it goes bad. Great idea to make pesto out of it! Very tasty dish.

  23. Art and Appetite says:

    I would have never known how all these ingredients works together. It is so innovative yet it sounds sooo good. I can’t wait to try. Love pesto sauce!

  24. 5 Star Foodie says:

    I haven’t cooked with taro root but I bet I can find it in my supermarket. This dish sounds excellent, I can’t wait to try it.

  25. TastyTrix says:

    I’ve only ever had taro in Asian dishes, and I do love it, and so I definitely want to try it like this. Looks so delicious.

  26. Michelle says:

    Fell in love with taro root when we were in Hawaii. Especially like the taro root chips!

  27. oum mouncifrayan says:

    une belle découverte pour moi cette version! merci

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