Winter vegetables bemuse me. In winters past, while perusing the aisles of my local grocery store, I’ve done a lot of staring, poking, and prodding at the unrecognizable, unpronounceable seasonal vegetables. Some are lumpy and dirty while others are so awkward and large, they won’t even fit in those clingy plastic produce bags. Out of sheer fear, I tend to avoid them. But this year … this year will be different.
Dear winter veggies,
This year I accept the challenge: I will defeat you and, mark my words, I will eat you.
Seasonal Roasted Root Veggies
Glamorous? Not really. But, in their defense, they have quite the history: some root vegetables graced the plates of our ancestors before the dawn of agriculture. Muster up the courage to try a few of these mysterious veggies and you will be rewarded for your bravery with deliciousness.
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 tbsp. of chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 c. olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Root vegetables can vary, but here’s what I used:
1/2 lb. of red-skinned potatoes
1 medium-sized celery root
1 medium-sized rutabaga
1/2 lb. of parsnips
10 oz. of red pearl onions
5 garlic cloves (I forgot to buy them, so I used the pre-minced garlic I keep on hand)
Be not afraid of these strange looking vegetables – simply get out your peeler, a sharp knife, and dig in.
First, peel all of the vegetables except the potatoes and onions (I used a knife to peel the thicker skins of the celery root and rutabaga). Chop the ends off to make peeling easier. Then chop all the vegetables, except for the garlic, into 1-inch pieces.
Move your oven racks so that one sits lower to the bottom and one sits in the center position. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Grease a baking sheet or dish with nonstick spray.
Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add the un-skinned onions and let boil for 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions and transfer them to a bowl of cold water. This method is called blanching and stops the cooking process. Once they’ve cooled, take them from their cold-water bath and pinch the ends to remove the skin. They should slide out fairly easily.
Combine all the vegetables (except for the garlic) in the baking dish; add the olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Toss until coated.
Roast for 30 minutes on the bottom rack, stirring occasionally.
Mix in the garlic and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned. Stir occasionally.
Serve and be healthy.
Pumpkin Beer Bread
There’s no rule that says you can’t play with pumpkins after Halloween. A departure from the typical pumpkin pie, this recipe takes warm spices of the season and combines them with beer. It’s really a win-win.
Non-stick spray, oil, or butter for greasing the pan
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of nutmeg (just squeeze a bit between your fingertips)
Pinch of ground allspice
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup pumpkin puree (mine came from a can, but you can make your own [below])
1 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 c. pumpkin ale (choose one that you like because you’ll have some leftover)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. (You can do this in a bowl in the microwave, too.) Remove from heat; stir in the pumpkin puree and brown sugar. Then, stir in the eggs. Next, add the pumpkin ale and stir.
Finally, add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into loaf pan.
Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow it to cool before slicing.
Leftovers – if you have any – can be stored at room temperature for a few days.
Serve and smirk (at your awesomeness).
Adapted from a recipe on slate.com.
Pumpkin Puree From Scratch:
Think using canned pumpkin is cheating? I present to you another challenge: just make the puree yourself.
Instead of field pumpkins, like the ones you carve, it’s advisable to use sugar pumpkins (or sugar pie) because their innards tend to be less stringy for baking.
While I found several ways to get the meat out of the pumpkin, this method seemed to be the simplest:
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the pumpkin in half, throwing away the stem and stringy, pulp-y stuff.
On a baking sheet (I cover my sheet with parchment paper), place the two halves face down. Cover the sheet with foil.
Bake until tender – typically 1 1/2 hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin.
Allow the pumpkin to cool, scoop out the flesh (a metal spoon works best), and puree it in a food processor, food mill, or blender.
You can freeze this for up to six months – which I highly recommend. This way, you have some on-hand if you want to whip up a bit of pumpkin beer bread whenever the whim strikes you.
Biz Farrell, freelance food writer and humble gourmand.