Market Fresh: Roasted Root Vegetables

We are entering the season of root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips and more. Roasting vegetables is one of my very favorite ways to enjoy the full flavor and get the benefits of the nutrients in the root varieties. As a side dish with a recent beef roast, I combined white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and turnips. I drizzled a olive oil and a little butter (the flavor of the two together is wonderful!) and finished it with fresh ground salt & pepper. It roasted in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables were tender.


Such a perfect and easy side dish with little effort. You can combine all kinds of different vegetables and use this same method. You can switch it up with fresh or dried herbs, using only butter or only olive oil. Just remember to keep the size of your vegetables fairly consistent.

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Off The Shelf: Seasonal Eating

Since we are at the start of another year, I thought it would be appropriate to review some “year-round” books that focus on seasonal eating.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver is a fascinating read about one family’s adventure to eat only what they can grow, or purchase locally, for one year. The book is arranged chronologically, beginning in March when the first tender shoots of asparagus appear. The story continues as their garden is planted and the family begins to harvest the fruits of their labors. It’s fascinating to read about the quantities that were necessary to actually feed a family of four for a year, and of course all the hard work that goes into such a venture!

Each chapter ends with several seasonal recipes, written up by Barbara’s daughter, Camille, and reflecting food that is eaten in the Kingsolver household.

For those interested in seasonal cooking, this book shows you where it’s really at. Obviously most of us can’t take the drastic measures the Kingsolver’s did, but the book does open one’s eyes to many things, remind us of what is in season when, and encourage one to take a few baby steps in the right direction.

I chose a recipe from the chapter entitled: What do you eat in January? The Sweet Potato Quesadillas were a nice idea, although, funny enough, I think I would prefer them without the sweet potatoes and just the onions, greens and brie.

SWEET POTATO QUESADILLAS
(Animal, Vegetable, Miracle)

2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 onion (I used one whole onion)
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. basil
1 tsp. cumin
chile powder to taste
olive oil

Cut sweet potatoes in chunks, cook in steamer basket until soft, then mash. Chop and saute garlic and onion in a large skillet. Add spices and sweet potato and mix well, adding a little water if it’s too sticky. Turn burner to low to keep warm without burning.

4 flour tortillas (I used whole-wheat)
4 ounces Brie or other medium soft cheese
Swiss chard or other greens (I used spinach)

Preheat oven to 400F. Brush oil lightly on one side of tortilla. Turn over and spread filling on half of each. Top with slices of Brie and shredded greens, then fold tortillas to close (oiled side out).

Bake until browned and crisp (about 15 minutes); cut into wedges for serving.

 How to Pick a Peach – by Russ Parsons is a fascinating and helpful book that surveys the fruits and vegetables available in our markets, giving their genetic history, storage and preparation information, and suggested recipes. The books is arranged seasonally beginning with spring and its produce: artichokes, asparagus, onions, leeks and garlic, peas and fava beans, salad greens, strawberries. The book closes with a large section on all types of citrus (so check this book out if you want to know more about what to do with the glut of citrus in the market right now!).

I found myself fascinated  by the statistics of how many tons of what vegetable are grown in which states. And then to trace back the genetic history to find out just how we got tomatoes that look so red but taste so white in our stores today. There is also a full explanation of why strawberries no longer taste like the berries I remember as a child. I found the refrigeration instructions helpful too. For instance, you should never refrigerate bananas, potatoes, onions and tomatoes. You can refrigerate briefly (3 days) cucumbers, eggplants and peppers. And, only after fully ripened can you refrigerate avocados, peaches, plums, and pears.

There are quite a few recipes in this book as Parsons provides recipes for each fruit or vegetable talked about. I chose to try the Turnip and Potato Gratin.The idea of the dish was very nice, but I felt my turnips were a bit too spicy and would have done better with allowing the potatoes to be the main ingredient and the turnips just the sideline.

TURNIP AND POTATO GRATIN
(How to Pick a Peach)

1 garlic clove, peeled
6 turnips, peeled
2 large boiling potatoes, peeled (I did not peel mine)
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
3 ounces Gruyere or Comte, grated or sliced

Heat the oven to 450F (I did 425F for my oven). Rub the garlic clove all over the inside of a heavy gratin dish, then butter the dish well and set aside. Discard the garlic.

Slice the turnips and potatoes as thinly as you can, ideally using a mandoline or Japanese slicing tool. Toss the vegetables with the salt and place them in rough layers in the gratin dish. Don’t worry about arranging them; you’ll be stirring them later. Bake until softened, 20-30 minutes. Stir with a spatula every 10 minutes, making sure the bottom layer doesn’t scorch.

Pour the cream over the potatoes; it should come just to the top layer without covering it. Distribute the cheese over the top and bake until the cream thickens and the top is browned, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 8.

Market Fresh: Vegetable Side Dishes

Today we are recommending two easy vegetable side dishes that can be incorporated into your Thanksgiving celebration, or enjoyed throughout the season. The recipe for Roasted Sweet and Savory Squash has restored acorn squash to my good favor and put it back on the shopping list. The mix of sweet brown sugar, melted butter and Fall herbs is comfort food at its best.

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ROASTED SWEET AND SAVORY SQUASH
(Heather)

1 large acorn squash, seeded and cut into slices
1 butternut squash, seeded and cut into slices
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 c. brown sugar
salt & pepper
fresh sage, rosemary and thyme (about 2 Tbsp. each), chopped

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place squash slices into a baking pan. Mix the melted butter with the brown sugar, salt and pepper, and herbs. Spread the butter mixture on the slices of squash. Bake for 40-50 minutes until squash is tender.

Serves 8-10 depending on amount of squash.

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The combination of mashed potatoes and turnips makes a nice, yet subtle, change from regular mashed potatoes. Because the color is the same as traditional mashed potatoes, the only clue one gets to the presence of the turnips is the slight tang they add to the mildness of the potatoes.

MASHED POTATOES AND TURNIPS

potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
butter
sour-cream
salt & pepper

The best proportion for potatoes and turnips is somewhere between two parts potatoes to one part turnip. A good standard measure for mashed potatoes is one medium potato per person plus one or two for the pot. Thus, for this recipe, if you are serving 12, you will want 8-9 potatoes and 4 turnips.

Place the peeled and cut potatoes and turnips in a pan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender (the turnips may take a bit longer than the potatoes — that is fine). Drain the potatoes and turnips and mash. Add sour-cream, butter and salt & pepper to taste.