Roasting Roots – Newly Stylish

A January commentary on NPR about food fashion allowed as how pie is replacing cake, adding that, if pie is the new cake, vegetables are the new meat. Vegetables become the main event – “Root vegetables, meanwhile, are the new heirlooms. These gnarled vegetables such as salsify, Jerusalem artichokes and celery root are about to step onto the food fashion runway.”

Who knew Red Dog Farm was so trendy? My refrigerator contains some stylish treasures in the way back – and I am writing this post to inspire a big roast off. I also keep thinking of our younger son’s almost plaintive pronouncement that he can BUY the vegetables (he lives in Los Angeles with 125 farmer’s markets all year long) – but how does he use them up in time? Roots with long storage life help that problem.

Our farmer addresses her members’ individual needs and capabilities for consumption by dividing her CSA subscriptions into sessions. In spring and summer small suffices for us – the market and the garden are backups – but this time of year we are large. And often in her newsletter, she includes the simple injunction: “Roast those Roots!”

My refrigerator holds parsnips, celeriac, potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots, and a rutabaga. All or part can be roasted together so easily – cut into similar size chunks, embellished with olive oil and salt (and maybe just a touch of maple syrup – often recipes suggest adding a tiny hit of sweet to amplify the natural taste of roasted vegetables). Bake in good heat till tender. Same size chunks roast evenly – but the inevitable smaller ones are crispy and delicious.

In “The Winter Vegetarian” I noticed a new possibility (in a nine recipe section on rutabagas) – “Fireplace-Roasted Rutabagas.” Goldstein says, “roasted in the coals of a hot fire, rutabaga turns mellow and creamy inside, with a smoky, charred crust that adds some bite.” Using two one-pound rutabagas, she wraps each with olive oil, dried marjoram, salt and freshly ground black pepper in two layers of aluminum foil. Placed in hot coals in the fireplace, they roast for about an hour and a half. Slice to serve.

Old friends are coming to dinner. Cooking in the fire will remind us of long ago camping trips with our families. A rainy winter night instead of a long summer eve – but food and friends by the fire!

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