Wishing everyone a happy + healthy + prosperous 2011!!
Our brownstone's stairs pre-shoveling
These days, with blizzards, mounds of snow, and breezes that make my face ache, all I want is to be warm and cozy indoors.
I roast a lot of vegetables throughout the year, but I find myself doing it in full force during the cold winter months. Yesterday, I roasted several sweet potatoes, a large eggplant, and a beet.
When cooking vegetables, if you have the time, throw them in the oven—skip the microwave and steamer (and forget about boiling!). Roasting brings out their flavors and tastes far superior. The extra oven heat is a plus when it’s cold outside as well. It is easy to cook a lot at one time, and then you will have a supply of roasted vegetables that can be enjoyed in various dishes. Check out my earlier post on Easy Weeknight Dinners for some more examples.
My favorites are sweet potatoes. Through high temperature roasting, they caramelize and weep syrup from the holes I pricked in their skins before baking in the oven.
The other day I spied some Asian sweet potatoes at the green grocer’s so I got one to roast along with some of the orange varieties more commonly found around here. The flavor is a little more subtle than the orange fleshed sweet potatoes, but just as delicious. They are both so good, I can eat them plain sans butter or sweetener.
Incidentally, sweet potatoes are not the same as yams, which are members of a different plant family. Here in the US, we often use the term “yam” for the brown skinned sweet potatoes with orange flesh. But they are really sweet potatoes. Real yams are tubers and grown in tropical climates and have dark brown or black skin that is not as smooth as that of a sweet potato.
I made sweet potato fries for my husband and baked the other one whole for myself and my son to share. The only way he’ll eat sweet potato is if it is pureed and topped with marshmallows. I’m hoping later in life he’ll learn to appreciate the unadorned version, but for now, it’s a great way to get some vitamins A and C into him.
I tried a little experiment with a large eggplant this time. Usually, I chop the whole thing up into cubes and toss them in olive oil and then roast. But I wanted to make a Japanese dish which involves dressing the eggplant with a miso sauce and then broiling it. Japanese eggplant are long and skinny and cook quickly. Their counterparts commonly found here are gigantic by comparison. I tried slicing a large one into thick slices and basted them with olive oil. I tested Cooking Light’s Chef Billy Strynkowski’s theory that these days, eggplant doesn’t have to be salted beforehand to draw out any bitter flavor. When he told me this during the photo shoot, I was dubious, but it turns out he is right!
The flesh was creamy and silky with no hint of bitterness. I’m so happy I can skip the salting altogether.
My version of the miso sauce is thinner than traditional ones. I’ve even seen it made with egg yolk. The miso has such a strong flavor and is very high in sodium. I feel like my thinner sauce is a nice alternative.
You can peel off the skin and discard or eat it for more fiber.
Another favorite of mine is roasted beets. I just make a couple of piercings in the skin and wrap a whole beet in foil (after washing it). So easy and no staining of fingers necessary! When it’s fully cooked, it’s easy to peel off the skin. I love them in salads. They are so hearty and go well with tangy goat cheese (or blue cheese) and mellow toasted walnuts. I toss it all in a Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette. The added crunch from some raw celery and Fuji apple, and the sweet chewiness of dried cranberries round out the flavors and textures. This is one of my favorite salads.
Oops -- took photo before I added the dried cranberries...
Other veggies I love to roast are sliced cauliflower, brussel sprouts, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, butternut squash, whole heads of garlic wrapped in foil. With the exception of the garlic, the roasting method is generally the same: toss in oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper or other seasonings, and roast in oven for 30-60 minutes depending on size of vegetable and what kind of texture you prefer. So simple.
Sweet Potato Fries
2 sweet potatoes
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Wash sweet potatoes well. Cut in half, then cut into thick wedges. Brush liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Roast in oven for about 30 minutes.
Jamie’s Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes
½ cup cooked sweet potato
1 teaspoon butter
2-4 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Mini marshmallows (or one large marshmallow, cut into small pieces with kitchen shears)
- Heat potato with butter, milk, and cinnamon. Blend with an immersion blender.
- Transfer to a small ramekin and top with mini marshmallows. Toast in toaster oven for about 3 minutes (or broil in oven).
Broiled Eggplant with Miso Sauce
1 large eggplant (this dish originates in Japan and uses Japanese eggplant. Since it is harder to find here, I make a version that works well with the large eggplant that is common in the US).
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 tablespoon hot water
2 teaspoons mirin
2 teaspoons sugar
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Wash eggplant and cut into thick ¾ -inch slices. Arrange on baking sheet. Generously baste with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt.
- Roast eggplant slices for about 30-35 minutes until flesh is soft.
- Gently stir miso paste and water together until paste is dissolved. Add mirin and sugar.
- Spoon sauce onto roasted eggplant slices. Broil for about 4-5 minutes, taking care not to overcook the topping.
Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Apple
4 cups of mesclun greens
1 large apple, cored, sliced and julliened (I love Fuji apples)
8 oz. of roasted beet, chopped in ½” cubes
1 celery rib, finely chopped
Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette (see below) to taste
About 2 oz. of goat cheese
Toasted walnuts, chopped
- Toss greens, apple and roasted beet together with vinaigrette.
- Sprinkle goat cheese and toasted walnuts on top.
Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon honey mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1. Stir sugar and honey mustard together. Whisk in balsamic vinegar. Whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.