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Roasting Fall Vegetables

Contributed by: Charlie Burke

At a Grower's Dinner featuring New Hampshire grown meat, vegetables and fruit from the Bedford, NH Farmers' Market, the very talented chef, Joe Brenner was asked what he had put into the intensely flavored roasted carrots. He answered: "nothing, they are just great, locally grown carrots, sweet and so hard I thought I'd broken a tooth biting into one"! His answer not only delighted the members of the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Initiative (see "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" story in the food archives of www.TheHeartofNewEngland.com) but also illustrate, once again, how fresh local produce is vastly superior to mass market vegetables.

Root crops are at their peak now; with the exception of parsnips which gain sweetness in the ground, fall turnips, beets and carrots lose their sugar with prolonged storage. When roasted, these sugars caramelize, deepening and enriching flavors. Winter squashes, leeks, garlic and onions can be added to the mix. The preparation is easy and can be done ahead which is a plus for entertaining or for week night meals. Roast a single vegetable as was done with the carrots or a mix such as carrot, sweet potato and squash.

Once you are comfortable with high temperature roasting you can mix and match according to availability of vegetables and your family's preference. Roasted beets and carrots are great additions to salads or can stand alone. Beets are great in a salad with goat cheese, and carrots tossed with a little lemon juice and sesame oil are delicious. Roasted vegetables also are great additions to soups or pasta sauces.

Preparation is simple, but there are a few important steps. Cut the vegetables into fairly uniform size to ensure even cooking, usually about 1 - 1 inch cubes or wedges and pick a roasting pan large enough to hold them in one layer. Some fat is necessary to promote browning, but surprisingly little is required, no more than a couple teaspoons for a small amount and up to a couple tablespoons for a large roasting pan. We use olive oil, adding it to the pan and tossing the pieces until all are lightly filmed. Add salt and pepper and dried herbs such as marjoram, sage or oregano. If you prefer fresh herbs, add them toward the end of cooking.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and cook, turning the vegetables about half way through cooking. Root crops and squash usually are done in 25-30 minutes, but start checking at about 20 minutes. You'll find many ways to enjoy vegetables cooked this way which really enhances their flavor.

About the author:
An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association (www.nhfma.org) and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife, Joanne, he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH. His column & recipes appear weekly in The Heart of New England's newsletter... to get your free subscription send a blank email to heartofnewengland@yahoogroups.com or visit www.TheHeartofNewEngland.com


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