Move over mashed potatoes! This winter why not try something different like roasted root vegetables? Parsnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, fennel, etc. go great with rich meats or as a side dish or antipasto. As autumn comes to an end and fresh vegetables are harder to come by we like to mix and match our root veggies. For example why not add potatoes or carrots to your mashed potatoes adding a bit of color and complexity to the taste. It's easy to do too, simply peel the carrots or beets and dice and boil in the same pot as the potatoes. Then mash'em, adding in your butter and milk. You can also braise or grill certain root vegetables.
On a side note: I grew up hating beets because my parents forced us to eat them from a can! It was horrific. I promise you that fresh picked beets taste nothing like the tinned variety.
Root vegetables are rich in nutrients, low in fat and calories, inexpensive and usually available throughout the year. Beyond that, they have wildly varying characteristics. Radishes are pungent, carrots sweet, beets earthy. Others, like parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas, have more subtle flavors. Root vegetables preserve well in the ground or in a dry cool place.
|Fresh from the garden carrots and "candles of fire" beets|
Roasted Root Vegetables
Keep in mind that different veggies have different cooking times. For instance the beets will need to be boiled & skinned first, where as the carrot can be roasted raw.
1 bulb fennel
2-3 med. beets (we use a long variety, but you can use the classic round beet as well)
a bunch of baby carrots or 2-3 normal carrots, peeled & left whole
couple cloves of garlic, skins removed
handful of parsley leaves, whole
salt & pepper
In a pot of boiling water, cook the beets until a knife easily slips through them. Drain & allow to cool. Once you can handle them, rub the beets with a damp kitchen rag & the skins will slough off. If you are using long beets like the photo above, simply quarter them length wise. For the traditional round beets, cut them into 1 inch square chunks.
Take the fennel, cut in half & remove the bottom core by cutting an inverted ‘V’ at the base. Then simply slice the fennel lengthwise into inch wide pieces.
If you have baby carrots, just clean them up & throw them in whole, they look gorgeous! If not, cut your carrots by quartering them lengthwise - use your judgement & try to keep your cuts similar to the size of your fennel.
Toss all the root veggies in a bowl with a couple cloves of garlic left whole, a few pinches of salt & crack of pepper, finishing with 2-3 glugs of olive oil. Toss everything together & layout out a baking pan with parchment paper.
Bake in a hot oven 400 F or 200 C for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven, give everything. If you have a convection setting turn it on now, if not raise the temp. to 425 or 215 C. Continue roasting for another 15-25 minutes depending on the size you cut your vegetables. The cooking time is generally about an hour in total, I like to keep it in until the edges get the burny crispy edges. Five minutes before the veggies are done add you whole parsley leaves atop & give it another turn. Be careful not to leave it in too much longer, you don’t want the parsley to burn, but just wilt.
Serve with a drizzle of really good olive oil & serve with anything: roasted chicken, grilled meats, fish, put it on cibatta bread with soft cheese - all by itself, you name it, it’s delish!