Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Simple Sides-Big Flavors

Some people consider root vegetables to be among the "ugly vegetables"- you know the ones, your kids won't eat them. Your husband makes gaggy faces. You have nightmares of a grandmother mashing rutabagas and serving that. Yuck. I have long since gotten over my horror at the thought of turnips, beets and parsnips, although rutabaga is still on my Too Gross Too Eat List. I found the way to make these vegetables into something absolutely delicious! No more beet cubes from a tin can or mushy turnips boiled in water all day. Heck no. The oven is the secret ingredient in this simple side.

I will never forget the first time I read about roasting vegetables. I couldn't wait to try it! Brussels sprouts became magical little balls of love. Carrots, squash and sweet potatoes took on an almost dessert-like sweetness. Oh man, whoever decided to be the first one to roast a vegetable definitely is a super hero in my book. Of course over the years now I have roasted just about every form of plant except iceberg lettuce (and I have not ruled that out for some future experimentation), from asparagus to tomatoes to green beans, and root vegetables, in my opinion, are by far the best vegetables for roasting. Potatoes are a given- cut those babies up if they're big, toss with some olive oil and seasonings and roast until browned and crispy. Wedges are great for dipping, hunks are perfect next to a big juicy steak.  Make a potato salad from roasted potatoes and you'll have a whole new experience.

But today, it's all about carrots and parsnips. I love parsnips. They were very popular back when I lived in England and readily available year round. They look like carrots except they are creamy white. They taste herby and fresh- reminds me of celery in a way. They go together with carrots so well that I decided tonight's very simple side was just that- roasted carrots and parsnips. Finished with thyme and a little sea salt, they are the perfect accompaniment to almost anything and are especially delicious with holiday turkeys.

To make this super simple side, you will need-
  • 1 pound parsnips
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Choose fresh and firm parsnips that have no roots growing out the sides (a sign they are old and may be woody), no growth from the top (most parsnips are trimmed at the top) and aren't slimy or soft. Carrots are pretty much the same- bright orange color and no flaky, chalky appearance. They should be crisp ad firm.

Peel the parsnips and carrots. Cut the parsnips in half lengthwise; quarter any really large ones. The carrots I had were about twice the length of the parsnips so I peeled them, then cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise so they'd be about the same size. Place in a large bowl, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle seasonings over and toss with your hands.

Spread the vegetables out onto a greased baking sheet in a single layer and place in a 425 degree oven. It takes about half an hour to roast them to a caramelized perfect roastiness, you can stir them halfway through if you like. Remove from baking sheet and serve. That's it! Super simple. The roasting brings out a sweetness in root vegetables that you just have to experience. Leftover veggies can be chopped up and added to salads, casseroles, soups or omelets. 

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