Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roasted Roots and Sprouts

Roasting in the Fall is a two-for. It turns roots and sprouts from background filler to high styling treat, and it fills the house with a rich warmth, literally. Instead of turning on the heat in early or mid October, I roast vegetables and bake bread.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
I happen to like Brussels sprouts, but this dish is one for even the most wary. Roasted sprouts taste nutty, and completely different from their boiled, steamed, or even sautéed cousins.

Brussels Sprouts have been available in the New Hampshire farmers’ markets I frequent for a few weeks, and have about a week to go there according to my best sprout supplier. I haven’t seen them at all at the Union Square farmers’ market. Maybe the season is too early for them yet this far South, or maybe our farmers don’t grow them. Whole Foods doesn’t label the origin of their Brussels sprouts, but they do have them priced at a seasonal rate (about $1.39 a pound; it can go up steeply when they’re imported from….Alaska? Norway?).

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
2 apples, the kind that stay firm when baked (Granny Smith and Cortland work well)
Kosher salt
Olive oil

Trim off the bottoms of the Brussels Sprouts and slice them in half. Spread them out on a cookie pan; you can include any stray leaves that fell off while you were slicing. 2 lbs should give you enough to cover one pan. Peel the apples, core, and cut into chunks that match the size of the sliced Brussels sprouts, and put them into the pan. Take the leaves off one sprig of rosemary (about 1T dried rosemary) and sprinkle on top. Sprinkle on also 1-2 T kosher salt, pepper to taste, and 2-3 T olive oil. Toss the Brussels sprouts and apples so that they are evenly covered with the spice and oil mixture. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are browned.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

1 large sweet potato or 2 small per person
Olive oil
Kosher salt

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into ½-1 inch squares. Spread them out on a cookie pan. Dribble 2-3 T olive oil and sprinkle 1-2 T salt and 2-3 tsp pepper over the top. Toss to coat. Put in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the pieces become quite soft.

potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, and winter squash work wonderfully this way as well. Combine contrasting colors (sweet potatoes and white potatoes, white potatoes and beets…) for extra fun.

Roasted Beet Salad
Serves 4

4 large or 8-10 small beets
Olive oil
8 oz. feta cheese

Trim the tops and bottoms off 4 large or 8 to 10 small beets. Place on a foil-lined cookie pan. Roast at 350 for 1-2 hours (depending on the size of the beets). Roast for at least 30 minutes after you can first poke through the beets with a fork or knife. Remove from oven and wrap tightly in the tin foil. This gives a little final steam to the beets and makes peeling much easier. Let sit at least 15 minutes, and up to several hours. Peel the beets, and cut into small squares.
While the beets are cooking, make a vinaigrette in the bottom of an airtight container that will hold all of your beets. I use about ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 1 tsp mustard, 1 tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. pepper.

Toss the beets into the vinaigrette, cover, shake well, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2-3 days.
Just before serving, cut the feta cheese into squares the same size as the beets and toss.

Variations: Toasted walnuts make a wonderful addition to this salad. It can also be served on a bed of arugula or chickory.