Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roasting Seasonal Vegetables

I have yet to meet a vegetable whose flavor does not improve significantly when roasted.

Admittedly, there are a few vegetables I have never cared to eat again, after my first distasteful experience with them. Not that I really hated them -- too strong a word. It prefer to think it was just a failure on my part to appreciate their "special" qualities. Noxious odors or offensive textures were usually to blame. Or so I thought.

It's interesting now, though, to discover a few of these vegetables are much more palatable than I first thought. One reason may be a more mature palate -- mine has aged just a bit since my first taste, when I deemed them useless for my survival on earth.

Another may be a different preparation. I just didn't realize as a kid that some vegetables simply do not seem to benefit from being boiled to death.

Afterall, how much do most five year olds know about food?
"Oh, goodie Mommy! I see something new on my plate and I'm so excited ... even if it looks a little strange ...  and it smells kinda weird ... and, oh boy, I just can't wait to taste it!" 
Yeah, I never quite put it that way either!

I was fairly successful, though, in teaching my son how to re-frame the yucky vegetable issue after a few unwelcome dinner table outbursts caused me to lose my otherwise cheerful maternal demeanor.

Fortunately, he was a good kid and willing to play along with my insistence that he express respect and gratitude for the cook, if not the food ...
"Gee, this looks interesting. Can you tell me more about it?" ... in a pleasant voice.
"I've tasted this, but I don't think I care for it." ... again, in a pleasant voice.
 And the one thing I expected to hear after every meal ... at home or wherever ... no matter what was served ... or who prepared it ...
"Thank you for the lovely dinner."
 A little bit of Eddie Haskell is sometimes necessary to smooth a mother's ruffled feathers.

Substitutions for offensive food were not prepared at my table. And if the scenario played out as scripted, with the required taste-test and the pleasant follow-on statements, dessert was still an option.

No Clean Plate Club or no Dessert Rewards at my table either.

Of course, nothing was served at my table that I wasn't going to eat myself, so my lucky kid did not ever have to endure any boiled brussels spouts, beets or turnips. I spared him the really yucky ones, or so I thought. He still found some he did not care for ... like sweet potatoes ... even with sugar and marshmallows, for heaven's sake! Go figure!

So now that you've seen the picture above and read the names of certain vegetables for which I had no previous appreciation ... what do you think is in that cute little bowl?

Potatoes? Really?

You crack me up!  Potatoes ... yucky ... never!

No, it's turnips, you silly! And they're roasted ... and, oh so delicious!

Really! They didn't smell funny before, during or after roasting. They were very fresh and extremely easy to peel. A little olive oil and salt and pepper was all they needed before undergoing what can only be described as a magical transformation in a 400 degree oven. Why didn't I try this before?

First I discovered roasted brussels sprouts ... and shared them with the world ... some of whom seemed to already possess this little nugget of kitchen wisdom.  And no one told me?

Then it was beets ... so much better when roasted.

And now it's turnips!

Those pungent, sour, bitter, acrid little bits of white, often boiled and served with a big bunch of their green leaves, also chopped and boiled. Bleck! No amount of vinegar on those greens could cover up those nasty little white bits.

But here's what happened today. I've been reading about seasonal foods this week, especially with regard to Traditional Chinese Medicine's cure for damp. Right there on the list was turnips. So I toddled my damp self off to our local Fresh Produce market with a list that included turnips, although I certainly had no intention of buying them.

But then I saw them. Sitting there all fresh and white with that jaunty little purple swoosh around the stem end ... they looked pretty cute ... and they didn't really smell musty ... and the greens had been removed ... so my mind did not make the inevitable leap to boiled greens with noxious white bits.

And guess what? I bought them! Well, six of them, anyway.

And when I got home I decided to roast them. What a g.r.e.a.t. idea! Maybe not original or ground-breaking, but still new to me!

When I tasted one right out of the oven, I was thrilled! Delicious! Outstanding!

Roasting vegetables is pure genius ... again ... and again ... and again!

I grabbed a bowl ... one with a little Asian flair, to honor my TCM inspiration ... and a plate ... and headed to the dining room table where I dabble in food photography.

Seasonal vegetables really score big flavor when prepared in a seasonal way ... roasted in a warm oven ... to cure what ails you, as rain dampens the blanket of leaves on the ground.

I feel better already. Even after eating all six turnips.

Really though, it was only about a cup, after they were roasted.

Must have worked too. I feel very alert and oh-so-energetic!

fresh turnips, stems and greens removed
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel turnips with vegetable peeler and slice off stem end. Cut turnips into smallish chunks. Line a baking sheet with foil (for easier clean-up) and spread turnip chunks out evenly. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast in oven for 40-45 minutes, until they begin to brown. Turn turnips over with a spatula after the first 20 minutes to brown on other side. Serve warm or at room temperature.