Uncommon companions

GIVEN a little attention, the old standbys of winter vegetables can be a festive -- and even adventurous -- addition to a holiday menu. Trendy cooks have been pur'eeing winter vegetables singly or in concert for years, but the real drama is their recognizable variety -- the bright yellow carrot, pale orange-pink rutabaga, oyster-white celeriac, and the two brilliant whites of purple-top turnip and potato. Another lovely contrast is the sharp or bland flavors.

Try these vegetables with a light hand for a change, avoiding the usual enrichments of cream and butter. Light Winter Minestrone 1/4 cup (2 ounces) finely diced salt pork 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 large clove garlic, chopped 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 cups root vegetables in 1/2-inch dice: potato, rutabaga, carrot, celeriac 1 cup canned tomatoes, drained, chopped 6 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned 2 cups finely shredded green cabbage, loosely packed Salt and pepper to taste 1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley

Combine salt pork, garlic, and rosemary in food processor fitted with a steel blade and process to a paste. Or combine ingredients on a chopping board and chop to a paste with heavy knife.

Heat olive oil in a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, add salt pork mixture, and saut'e until golden.

Add onion and cook 1 minute. Add vegetables, tomato, and chicken broth and bring to a rolling boil. Lower heat and simmer gently, partially covered, 20 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer about half the solid ingredients into blender or food processor. Pur'ee, and return it to soup pot. Add cabbage. Bring to a rolling boil, lower heat, and cook 10 more minutes.

Add salt and pepper if necessary.

Combine cheese and parsley in small bowl. Serve with soup. Serves 6 people generously. Root Vegetable Salad With Japanese Dressing Dressing 1 large egg yolk 1/4 cup water 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon finely minced ginger 1 teaspoon wasabi (Japanese horseradish powder) Scallions Salad 2 small celeriacs, about 12 ounces 2 medium carrots, about 8 ounces 1 thick slice rutabaga, about 4 ounces 2 green onions

Prepare dressing at least 2 hours before serving to develop flavors. In small saucepan, combine egg yolk, water, sugar, vinegar, and cornstarch and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until it thickens slightly.

Remove from heat and stir in ginger and wasabi. Scrape into a small bowl and refrigerate.

Peel celeriac, carrot, and rutabaga. With food processor fitted with a medium shredder, or hand shredder, shred the vegetables and toss together in a bowl until they are well distributed. To prepare the scallion, cut them lengthwise in thin strips, and across at 1-inch intervals.

Just before serving, toss vegetables and dressing. Mound on 6 cold plates and sprinkle with scallion. Makes 6 appetizer servings. Warm Winter Salad With Italian Sausage Salad 6 Italian sausages, hot, sweet, or a combination (about 3/4 pound) 6 cups root vegetables cut in 1/2-inch cubes -- carrot, parsnips, potato, celeriac, turnip, or rutabaga 1/2 cup onion cut in 2-inch julienne (1 small) 1/2 cup celery, cut in 2-inch julienne (1 outside stalk) 1 firm pear, cored and cut in 1/2-inch cubes 1/4 cup finely minced parsley Dressing 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 1/4 cup water 1/2 teaspoon sugar Salt and pepper if necessary

Place sausages in a cold 8-inch skillet and place over moderate heat. Saut'e, turning often, until well browned and cooked through, about 25 minutes. In the meantime, place vegetables in a 10-inch skillet with a lid, cover with salted water and boil gently for 20 minutes or until soft, but not mushy.

To make the dressing, remove the sausages and keep them warm. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the skillet, add onion and celery, and saut'e for 2 or 3 minutes. They should remain a little crisp. Add water and vinegar, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add sugar, taste, and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Drain vegetables well and add cubed pear. Scrape dressing over them and toss gently until well coated with dressing. Slice sausages 1/2-inch thick. Spoon salad on 6 warm plates, top with equal amounts of sausage, and sprinkle with parsley.

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