Here in New York we are still in the throes and woes of winter. Just this morning, our grass which was just starting to peek out under the snow, was promptly buried yet again by several more inches of snow. Such is life just south of the Adirondacks. As I have mentioned before we try to eat seasonally, but what does that look like right now when the ground is buried by snow?
Two words: Root vegetables. Root vegetables are all those fall crops that typically keep relatively well through most of winter. Some examples are butternut squash, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets. We are also blessed to be a part of a CSA able to grow some foods in greenhouses throughout the winter. This means our table is often graced with the presence of kale, salad greens, spinach and bok choy even in the dead of winter when it seems impossible for anything to grow.
Even though there may not be a wide variety of vegetables available in the winter (if eating local, seasonal produce), there is a wide variety of things to do with each of these vegetables. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy root vegetables.
Incredibly high in vitamin B and iron among numerous other nutrients and minerals, beets are a delight to cook with and a refreshing addition to numerous dishes. We typically roast beets (unpeeled) for two to three hours on 250 degrees. Then we peel the beets and either eat them as a side, sliced and topped with a hint of melted butter and salt or we use the beets in other dishes. They are a delicious addition in a salad (and pair well in a salad with walnuts). Another exquisite way to enjoy roasted beets is to slice them and then alternate slices of beets with goat cheese. Then, top with a balsamic glaze (or balsamic dressing if you do not want to make your own glaze). Oh so good!
Butternut Apple Walnut Soup*
Ingredients: One butternut squash, two apples, 1/2 cup walnuts, three and a half cups chicken stock, one onion, one to two cups of milk, thyme (to taste), salt/pepper (to taste), olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of butter
Peel and remove seeds from butternut squash. Chop into one to two-inch chunks. Lightly coat with olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper and roast in oven on 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. Saute onion in butter until nearly translucent. Add apple and walnuts to onion and continue till apple is heated through (5-10 min). In a large pot add butternut squash, apple/onion/walnut mixture and two cups of chicken stock. Cook for 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Remove from heat. Use an immersion blender to puree soup. Add one to two cups of milk to desired consistency and return to low heat. Heat through.
Helpful hint: If you have an abundance of squash, double or triple the recipe and just after pureeing the soup, but before adding in the milk, freeze the desired amount. Then, when you would like a quick and easy meal just pull it out of the freezer and heat up on stove, adding milk once warmed.
Sweet potatoes are an incredibly versatile and easy to prepare vegetable. Our favorite way is to simply poke a few holes in the top of them and bake in the oven for 250 degrees for two to three hours. We also enjoy sweet potato fries (cut into strips, toss into a bag with a bit of olive oil/butter, salt and cinnamon and cook on a cookie sheet for 45 min on 400 degrees).
Now that our girls are a bit older and we do not need to worry about carrots posing a choking hazard, we thoroughly enjoy taking along bags of carrot sticks to snack on when we are out and about. We also throw carrots into just about any recipe from soups to smoothies to Quiche. Here is one recipe showcasing this antioxidant rich vegetable:
Coconut-Ginger Carrot Soup
Ingredients: 1 lb of carrots (coarsely chopped), 1 onion (chopped), 1-2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of fresh, shredded ginger, 1 c. cream (or sour cream/creme fraiche), 4 c. chicken stock, 1 potato chopped, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes, salt/pepper to taste.
Saute onions in butter. Set aside. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add onions, potato, carrots, ginger, lemon juice and coconut flakes. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes (or until carrots are tender). Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blended (or in batches in a blender/food processor). Once pureed turn to low and add either 1 cup of cream or 1 cup of sour cream/creme fraiche. Heat over low heat till warmed through.
Another option: Instead of pureeing the coconut flakes into the soup, hold the coconut flakes and add them to the soup at the very end (post-puree) for a more textured soup.
So, there you have a few of our favorite ways to rendezvous with root vegetables. How about you? Do you have any favorite ways you like to enjoy root vegetables?
*Recipe adapted from Butternut-Apple Soup (p. 60) in The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book (2001).