Food Friday: Winter Root Vegetables


It has been a very odd winter. When I first planned this column I had imagined that we would still be digging cars out from snow drifts and warming our hands on big frothing mugs of tasty hot chocolate. Instead, we have taken off the wool sweaters, stashed the turtle necks, and opened up the windows to some delightful spring-like weather. And now I have to spend the weekend washing windows, because the short bit of winter we did have has covered them with a lot of schmutz and dust.

Part of my vision for this week was going to be a lively little rummage through our vegetable bins, pulling out all the winter-y root vegetables I could find for some quick and easy roasted vegetable dishes, or some lively stir fries. Instead, I think we need to pursue the more topical discussion: Gins and Tonic vs. Vodkas and Tonic. Who needs a hot toddy during this last week of February? Bring out the tall glasses, the limes, and lots of ice from the freezer, and let’s meet on the back porch for sunset cocktails!

Still, there is the pesky matter of dinner. We can’t let those cocktails go to our heads. We can still have crunchy salads, roasted veggies and a stir fry feast.

I love the way Bon Appétit has complete confidence in our mandoline slicing skills. And I just love these croutons – much healthier than my usual recipe which calls for frying the bread in bacon fat. This is just a beautiful salad, especially with the addition of jewel-like pomegranate seeds.

Crunchy Winter-Vegetable Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
½ garlic clove, finely grated
4 cups ½–¾-inch pieces country-style bread
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Dressing and Assembly
½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ garlic clove, grated
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 head of Treviso or Chioggia radicchio, leaves coarsely torn
1 large head fennel, very thinly sliced
2 medium golden or red beets, very thinly sliced
8 small white turnips, trimmed, very thinly sliced
8 cups torn lettuce leaves (such as red oak or Little Gem)
½ cup pomegranate seeds

•Preheat oven to 350°. Mix oil, butter, thyme, and garlic in a small bowl. Scatter bread on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle oil mixture over. Toss, squeezing oil mixture into bread; season with salt and pepper.
•Bake, tossing occasionally, until croutons are golden brown and crisp, 20–22 minutes. Let cool.
•Do Ahead: Croutons can be made up to 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Dressing and Assembly
•Shake oil, vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a jar to combine. Add 2 tsp. tarragon; season dressing with salt and pepper.
•Toss radicchio, fennel, beets, turnips, and lettuce in a large bowl to combine. Drizzle dressing over and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.
•Toss in croutons and pomegranate seeds and serve topped with more tarragon.

For a heartier appetite – especially for those who have been compelled to do spring cleaning a month ahead of time – this is a substantial, hearty meal of roasted chunks o’root vegetables:

And if you want to add some sizzle to your meal, our household god, Mark Bittman, has a tempting recipe for stir fry root vegetables: Be careful with the box grater, though. I have a few raw knuckles from being too enthused about this dish.

It looks like the next week is going to continue to be warm during the day, and cooler at night. I hope I am not being premature in starting some of our seeds. In addition to washing windows this weekend we are finally going to built a raised garden bed. I started some seeds yesterday in peat containers: coleus, nasturtium, basil, lettuce and some pole beans. In a few months I will be looking for a lot of basil recipes – I found four seed packets for basil in my little stash…

Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen!

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
–Albert Einstein

About Jean Sanders

Letters to Editor

  1. The stir fry recipe for root vegetables by Mark Bittman calls for seasoning the cooked vegetables with a curry mixture or five-spice powder. We have experimented with the Indian Garam Masala, a delightful change from the classic curry with its overpowering flavor. Garam Masala also perks up Summer veggies like zucchini.

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