En español | My daughter's found a website that offers free screen savers featuring beautiful seasonal produce. Every month there's a new one. When she turns on her computer in the winter, a rustic still life of knobby root vegetables comes to life. It's a beautiful scene, but also a stark reminder that, in the words of my late father, "pickin's are pretty slim"!
But there are plenty of root vegetables, which are good for you, inexpensive and easy to cook (and if you don't feel like peeling, seeding and cutting up winter squash, most produce departments carry it already peeled and cut).
During fall and winter I roast a big pan or two nearly every weekend, which my husband, David, and I enjoy throughout the week. Once the veggies are roasted, it's no problem finding uses for them. Rather than eat lettuce-based salads, for example, we frequently drizzle vinaigrette over warm roasted root vegetables for a winter salad. We love them for lunch, too, alongside a hearty grain like brown rice, barley or some of the ones newer to supermarket shelves, such as faro or freekeh. And if we don't eat the veggies right away, we can turn them into soup.
How you roast root vegetables depends on your oven. If your heating element is above the oven floor, start with a cold oven. When the vegetables go in, turn on the oven, which means that the heating element is in preheat mode the entire time the vegetables are roasting. Not only do the vegetables cook quickly, they also (more importantly) brown quickly.
Every oven and every roasting pan is different, so cooking times may vary. Understand the principle — you're using the oven element like a big stovetop burner to cook and brown the vegetables as quickly as possible. If you're using an especially thin pan, your vegetables may brown more quickly. If so, turn them sooner than the suggested 20 minutes.
When you turn them at the 20-minute point, certain vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, may stick a little. (The vegetable cooking spray helps.) If so, don't worry. Just continue turning the other vegetables. By the time you're done with the others, the steam will have loosened them, and they'll be ready.
If your heating element is below the oven floor, the vegetables don't brown as well, so just preheat the oven to a blistering 450 degrees and shove them in.
Since I leave the vegetables in their natural shape as much as possible (they roast better and look better that way), it's difficult to measure the eight cups accurately. I find that a generously filled 2-quart (8-cup) Pyrex measuring cup works well. If you don't have one, just make sure there are enough vegetables to fit in a single layer on the baking sheet.
It will be wonderful when spring's new produce arrives, but in the meantime I'm content with my gnarly root vegetables.
Roasted Root Vegetables
If you want to use large onions rather than the small ones suggested below, leave the root ends intact and halve the onion lengthwise, cutting each half into 4 to 6 wedges.
A generous 8 cups of any combination of the following.
- Medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- Medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thick
- Medium boiling or baking potatoes, sliced thick
- New potatoes, halved
- Small onions, halved length- or crosswise (see note above)
- Large shallots, not peeled and halved lengthwise
- Medium turnips, peeled and sliced thick
- Rutabagas, peeled, halved or quartered, depending on size, and sliced thick
- Winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
- Parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
If heating element is below the oven floor, adjust oven rack on lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees, and proceed with recipe, roasting vegetables until golden brown on one side, 25 to 30 minutes. Toss vegetables of choice with oil, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn onto a large-lipped cookie sheet (12-by-18-inch) that has been coated with vegetable cooking spray, making sure that the vegetables are on their flat side (if they have a flat side).
If heating element is above the oven floor, set pan on lowest rack in cold oven. Turn oven on to 425 degrees and roast until cut sides are caramel brown in color, about 20 minutes. Turn vegetables over; continue to cook until just tender, about 5 minutes longer.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup
Here's a great way to use up apple cider. You can also substitute 1/3 cup of apple juice concentrate for the reduced apple cider.
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup pure olive oil
Bring apple cider to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat; continue to boil until cider is reduced to a thin syrup consistency (1/3 cup), 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer reduced cider to a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Whisk in garlic, vinegar, mustard and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil to make a thick emulsified dressing. Serve. (Can be refrigerated for several days.)