ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ladies and gentlemen: get your roasting pans ready and turn on your ovens!
The arrival of fall brings to mind classic comfort foods, warm from the oven. Roasting vegetables is one of the easiest ways to make the most of New Mexico-grown vegetables available directly from your local farmer.
It’s easy to get spectacular results by roasting vegetables. Here are the basics:
• All vegetables should be washed before eating.
• Preheat your oven to 425F. This is the most common roasting temperature and it assures caramelization – the oxidiazation of sugar resulting in a nutty flavor and lovely brown color.
• Use sheet pan and don’t overcrowd it! You don’t want your vegetables to steam and they give off water when they cook. Placing them in a single layer on a shallow sheet pan with a little space between each piece ensures they will brown nicely. Line the pan with foil for easy clean up.
• Chop vegetables into similarly sized pieces. This promotes even baking. If you chop your vegetables too small they may dry out while roasting. Carrots can be left whole or chopped into circular “pennies,” but these will cook more quickly.
• Toss vegetables with olive oil and add herbs and spices. Tossing the veggies with oil in a bowl prevents over-oiling. Add about two tablespoons of olive oil per sheet pan of veggies. Vegetables should all be a little shiny and evenly coated. There is considerable debate about whether to salt before or after roasting, but I prefer salting after. Test in your kitchen and see what you think!
• Turn your vegetables. To ensure even cooking and browning, give them one or two stirs throughout the cooking process.
• Roast them, uncovered, until they are fork-tender and nicely browned. Cooking time should be about 30-40 minutes depending upon what vegetables are being roasted and the size of the pieces.
Five to try
Here are five fantastic vegetables – a few that may not be on your regular roster – available from local growers’ markets that we should all be buying and roasting now!
Beets: Roasted beets are super sweet and they are packed with antioxidants. Eat them hot as part of a balanced meal or serve cold as a salad. Their versatility means you can roast several bunches on the weekend and have them ready for meals through the week.
Celery Root: This farmer favorite has the flavor of well-loved celery with the added bonus of a creamy undertone. It also stores well in the refrigerator for at least three weeks. Roasting it is the best way to elevate the subtle flavors of this modest root vegetable.
Fennel: With its slight licorice taste, fennel can be perplexing except when shaving it over a salad. Roasting fennel provides a subtle sweetness that removes much of the licorice flavor and allows it to complement roasted meats. Remove the green tops and slice the chunky bulb into wedges before roasting. It tastes great with other roasted vegetables like potatoes, or can be served on its own sprinkled with lemon juice and Parmesan cheese before serving.
Kohlrabi: If you’re not sure what to do with this vegetable that looks like it is from outer space, try roasting it. One easy method for preparation is to remove the greens (you can sauté and eat these like Asian greens), remove the thick green skin, and dice the kohlrabi. Toss with olive oil, minced garlic (optional) and salt, and roast on foil-lined baking sheet at 450 degrees F. Cook for 30-35 minutes, stirring every five minutes after 20 minutes. Sprinkle with a good vinegar at the table, and voila!, you might just have a new fall favorite.
Squash: Any hard squash can be roasted, including pumpkins. Most winter squash can store well into winter, so this is a good time to stock up. To keep for several months, the best temperature is 50-55 degrees F. I use a cooler in the garage so mice don’t get them. Make sure they don’t have blemishes and don’t store them near fruit like apples or pears that off-gas.
Versatile, delicious and nutritious, roasted squash should be regular part of our fall and winter meals. Use in soups, casseroles, straight out of the oven, or warmed up anytime during the week.
Depending on your end use, you can either cut the squash in half or cut it in like-size pieces, brush or toss in oil, and roast.
Stock up now
Most growers’ markets close for the season by the end of October so this is the time to stock up on many hardy roasting vegetables that will make your kitchens smell great and your bellies supremely happy.
Denise Miller is executive director of the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association. Visit farmersmarketsnm.org.
ROASTED CELERY ROOT WITH SWEET CARROTS
1 celery root
2 to 3 large carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seed
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375F.
Wash celery root and carrots and peel. To peel the celery root, you will need to use a sharp knife to cut away the knobby exterior, including the green rind.
After it is peeled, chop both the celery root and carrot into bite-sized pieces (no more than an inch-square) and place in a bowl.
Drizzle olive oil onto the vegetables and toss until well-coated. Add fennel, salt, and pepper and mix evenly.
Spread the celery root and carrots on a foil-covered cookie sheet and place in oven. Roast for about 45 minutes. Test the vegetables with a fork after about 30 minutes to be sure they are done.
Serve and enjoy!
BEETS WITH CREAMY RED CHILE DRESSING
Makes 2 to 4 servings
1 bunch of beets, with greens attached (about 3 to 4 medium beets)
¾ cup, plus 1 tablespoon, olive oil (you can also use other oils, such as canola)
¼ cup red vinegar
2 to 4 dried red chiles, or to taste (try any local red chile)
2 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
5 ounces of goat cheese (we like The Old Windmill Dairy)
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ to ½ cup water
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Scrub beets and wash greens. Cut greens from the beets and set aside.
Cut beets into wedges and toss in 1 tablespoon of oil. Lay the beets out in a single layer on a baking sheet or oven-safe skillet and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.
Bake, covered, until fork-tender (about 35 to 45 minutes, depending upon the size of your beet wedges). Remove the cover and bake for 10 minutes more. When nicely browned, remove from the oven and set aside.
While the beets are baking, wash your greens and remove the stems. Chop the greens roughly and set aside to drain.
Make the red chile dressing as you will need the pan drippings for sautéing the beet greens.
Cut the stems off your chiles, slice them open, and remove the seeds.
Pour ¾ cup of oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic on medium low heat. (Don’t overheat and burn the garlic.) Add the chiles to the hot oil along with the garlic. Sauté for about a minute or two with the garlic.
Turn the heat off your garlic and chiles and let them cool for several minutes.
Carefully pour the cooled oil, garlic, and chiles into a blender or food processor. Add ¼ cup of vinegar, goat cheese, sugar, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth. If the dressing seems too thick, add water a tablespoon at a time to thin it out.
Once you’ve removed the oil, chiles, and garlic from the pan, add the washed, chopped beet greens. Add ¼ to ½ cup water and cover, steaming the greens over medium heat until cooked and wilted. Remove the cover and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.
To serve, lay the cooked beet greens on plates, top with baked beets, and drizzle the dressing over the top.