Summertime is the season for leafy salads, full of lightness and air. We crave cooling, not-too-filling foods when it’s hot out. But when the chill is in the air, we naturally move to foods that are warming, dense and grounding. All the root vegetables that were recently harvested at the end of summer suddenly feel like they suit mealtime.

Fried rice is an easy weeknight meal, and this fall-inspired twist features newly harvested sweet roots.

Try Root Vegetable Fried Rice With Pumpkin Seeds, and get grounded.

One root vegetable that doesn’t get the love it deserves is the parsnip. The sweet, white carrot-shaped parsnip has none of the bite of a turnip or a rutabaga, but all of the character. I find myself roasting and braising roots, since they have a tendency to take a while to cook. But if you cut them in small cubes, you can sauté them to buttery softness in a few minutes on the stovetop. Look for fresh, unwaxed parsnips that aren’t wilted or flexible.

You probably won’t need a whole sweet potato for this recipe, unless you can find a really small one. I use half of an average one, and roast the other half to use in baked goods, or to add to soups and stews to thicken them. All the vegetables together should equal about 3 cups (more or less of one or another doesn’t matter).

The secret to getting these veggies nice and tender on the stovetop is to cut them in small pieces. Peel the parsnip and sweet potato, slice in thin lengthwise planks, then stack them and slice in strips a little less than ½-inch wide. Slice across the strips to make small cubes. For the carrot, slice in half, lengthwise, and then cut thinly on a diagonal.

Brown rice is the base for this dish, although any number of grains could be swapped for it, from quinoa to a mixed rice blend. The protein and crunch come from toasted pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, for a fall-themed switch from the usual tofu. You can scramble in a couple of eggs to the rice, or go plant-based with the nutritional yeast option. A drizzle of maple syrup plays nicely with the earthy roots.


Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at