A champion of vegetable cookery for more than 25 years, Andrea Chesman has written more than a dozen cookbooks that celebrate fresh food cuisine. When it comes to autumn's best root vegetables like parsnips, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes, Chesman thinks roasting is the best way to go.
"The dry heat of roasting coaxes out and concentrates flavors," Chesman says. "With parsnips, roasting brings out sweet, nutty flavors and aromas that otherwise would not exist." Roasted rutabaga melts in your mouth like butter, and a pan of Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables (recipe below) will transport easily and hold up well on a buffet table.
Chesman includes this recipe among 14 "Master Recipes" in Serving Up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables (Storey, 2007). As with the other master recipes in the book, you can vary the mix of vegetables, using what you have on hand. It's the method that counts, which in this case involves roasting in a hot oven until the vegetables are brown and tender.
If you don't have carrots or sweet potatoes, substitute cubes of winter squash for savory-sweet flavor and bright orange color. "It has similar cooking properties and works well with root vegetables," Chesman says. In addition to sharing the recipe for Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables below, Chesman offers these tips for roasting goodies from your garden:
* To prepare vegetables for roasting, cut into uniform-size pieces and slick with oil. Use a lightly oiled sheet pan or shallow roasting pan for good air circulation. Crowded vegetables will steam rather than roast.
* To ensure even browning, flip the vegetables with a spatula once or twice during roasting.
* Roasted root vegetables are beautiful; roasted green vegetables are equally delicious but somewhat less than beautiful.
* Make plenty, because vegetables shrink as they roast. Use leftovers in salads, omelets, quiches, and other quick-fix dishes.
Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 4 to 6
3 to 4 pounds (8 to 10 cups) mixed root vegetables or winter squash, such as beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, turnips, and potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, peeled and cut into eighths, or 1 cup peeled pearl onions or shallots
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, alone or in any combination, chopped
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a large sheet pan with oil.
2. Combine the mixed vegetables, onions or shallots, and garlic in a large bowl. Add the oil, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat. Transfer the vegetables to the pan and spread out in a single shallow layer.
3. Roast 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until the vegetables are slightly browned and tender, turning with a spatula twice for even cooking.
4. Transfer to a serving platter, taste, and add more salt and pepper if desired. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.
Adapted from Serving Up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables (Storey, 2007), by Andrea Chesman. If you can't get enough roasted vegetables, check out Chesman's The Roasted Vegetable (Harvard Common Press, 2002).
Are some roasted veggie/herb combos so great everyone should try them? Share your best ideas for a veggie roast-a-rama in the comments section below!
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Photos by Barbara Pleasant