Even though I am Indian (and Indians are known for being heavy-handed with spices and garnishes) for the most part, I try to keep my cooking style light and easy. This is especially true when the vegetables on hand are fresh. With fresh ingredients, the simplest of recipes are the best. However, in this fast moving world where fruits and vegetables are genetically altered so they can be grown in mass quantities, harvested by machines and transported to different parts of the world, we’ve compromised on taste and to camouflage the bland taste of these ingredients we often have to resort to adding lots of spices or heavy dressings and sauces. This is why I prefer to shop at my local farmer’s market where even though the prices are a bit steeper than those at super-market, I am assured of the quality and freshness of the raw ingredients. I’ve always been one for touching, feeling and smelling the produce before I buy it. I know, I know people make fun of me for feeling so passionately about fruits and vegetables but what can I do, I confess to being quirky that way. This is why I have been reluctant to join a CSA. However, last week my neighbors who were traveling to visit family across the country, kindly offered me their share of the weekly CSA fall vegetables and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the vegetables tasted. To me it was like I had won the lottery – I got a small butternut squash, some turnips, some black radishes (which were surprisingly sharp), some parsnips, a head of Romain lettuce, a small bag of beets, a head of Bok Choy, some carrots (super sweet), a couple of leeks and a head of Romanesco cabbage. Since the vegetables were so delicious and naturally sweet, we ate whatever we could eat raw, but today I roasted remaining vegetables. I coated them with some extra virgin olive oil on a cookie sheet and roasted them in an oven. I had to roast the vegetables in batches because the time needed to roast them varied a bit but in the end I laid them out on a dish and sprinkled some goat cheese on top and thinly sliced fresh basil leaves. Given their freshness, they came out delicious and given their saturated colors, they looked very beautiful too!
1. One small head of Romanesco cabbage (or a cauliflower)
2. 7-8 small beets
3. 2-3 parsnips
4. One small butternut squash
5. 4-5 ounces of fresh goat cheese
6. 10-12 fresh basil leaves
7. Salt and pepper to taste
8. 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven at 350F.
2. Wash the beets and with a paper towel dry them thoroughly.
3. Chop off both the end of the beets and place them on a cookie sheet. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on them and roast them in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on the size of the beets. Mine were quite small and took very little time. You can use a sharp knife to test their done-ness. When the beets are soft, take them out of the oven and set them aside.
4. Slice the Romanesco in ½ inch thick slices and place them on the cookie sheet. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil and place the sheet in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes. I like to keep the texture a little crunchy here but if you like your Romanesco or cauliflower soft, please roast for longer. When done, take the cookie sheet out of the oven and set the roasted vegetables aside.
5. Peel the parsnips and the butternut squash. Since these two vegetables take approximately the same length of time to roast, you can roast them in one batch. Slice the peeled vegetables in ½ inch thick slices and place on a cookie sheet. Again, drizzle a little bit of olive oil and place in the oven for 12-14 minutes.
6. When all the vegetables are roasted, place them on a large serving dish. You can arrange them in such a way that those with the most contrasting colors are placed next to each other. This makes them look visually appealing and what looks pretty, always tastes good to us – hence the saying “we eat with our eyes first.”