Root vegetables

Aroma Therapy, Coaxing the love out of vegetables & Minestrone

    

 

 

Aroma Therapy

You know that feeling when something in the kitchen smells so good and you just breath it in and you begin to drool? That’s what I call aroma therapy! 

Pulling the natural aroma and flavor out of vegetables takes a bit of coaxing and love. You want to create depth by layering flavors. And as usual, nature tells us how to do it. Have a look at my “vegetable tree”. Seeing vegetables in this way gives a visual of what order vegetables prefer to be added to a dish to bring out their best. 

At the base of the tree are “root vegetables” or vegetables that grow underground and include carrots, onions, parsley, leeks, garlic, celery root (celeriac) and more. They are sweet in nature, caramelize well and are known as “aromatic vegetables” or “aromatics”. Most, if not all, traditional cuisines have a combination of aromatic vegetables that begin every soup, stew or sauce. The French use a “mirepoix”, a mixture of onion, carrot and celery. In Germany a “suppengrün” of celeriac, carrot and leek is used.   Cajun cuisine has the “Holy Trinity” a mixture of onion, celery and green bell pepper. Asian cuisines add turmeric root, ginger and lemongrass. Italian soffritto is often made with bits of leftover prosciutto or pancetta.

Here’s how I do the coaxing~

Following your recipe, start with the aromatics and sauté them gently to allow moisture to evaporate and condense the flavor. Add bay leaves, *hearty herbs and peppercorns here. You can put a lid on the pan for the first 4 or 5 minutes to sweat the vegetables. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender.

Next add low-to-the-ground vegetables like celery, hearty cabbage, cauliflower and so on. At this point, I don’t add a lid as it can discolor some vegetables. Cook until the color is vibrant but the vegetables are still crisp tender. Season as you go to layer and bring out flavors using salt and spices. Add broth, sauces, or splash of white wine.

Now, add leafy vegetables: kale, chard, Napa cabbage and bitter greens like radicchio. Once the vegetables are cooked perfectly and the flavoring is perfect too, turn off the heat and add minced *tender herbs for a splash of brightness in the dish.

Voila, you’ve got a lovely meal that is full of depth, flavor and color. Bon Appétit!

  • *Hearty herbs are herbs that need to be cooked: sage, thyme, marjoram, oregano
  • *Tender herbs are herbs that are tasty raw: cilantro, parsley, dill, mint, chives

Minestrone Soup

Using the methods above, apply the techniques to Italian Minestrone, a simple a soup with equal proportions of vegetables and broth. In Italy, Minestrone changes from region to region and season to season. This recipe is a guide. Use what you have and what you like.

Spring & Summer:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 oz. pancetta scraps, minced
  • 4 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed or chopped
  • 3 medium leeks (white and light green part), sliced thinly
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced or diced
  • 1 cup celery root or celery, diced or sliced
  • 4 medium new potatoes, large dice
  • 1/2 pound green beans in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 piece of parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 - 15 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes and juice, crushed by hand
  • Chicken broth or water
  • 3 cups savoy cabbage or swiss chard, chiffonade (cut like thin ribbons) 
  • 2 small zucchini, large dice
  • 2 cups pre-cooked white beans
  • 1/2 cup dry pasta (use odds and ends of pasta from your pantry)
  • Good olive oil
  • Minced parsley
  • Crostini & grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté pancetta and garlic until fragrant. Stir in the carrots and celery root and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the leeks and sweat the aromatic vegetables with the lid on until they are translucent. Season lightly.   

Add potatoes, green beans, parmesan rind and tomatoes with their juice. Add chicken stock or water just to cover the vegetables. Simmer 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Skim any impurities that rise to the surface.

Add the cabbage, zucchini, beans and pasta if using. Simmer for 15 minutes or to taste. Turn off the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Top with bread, cheese and minced parsley.

In Winter replace summer vegetables with:

  • 1 lb. winter squash like butternut
  • 2-3 parsnips
  • Use kale instead of swiss chard or cabbage

For a thicker soup, remove two cups of soup with veggies and purée in a blender. Add the mixture back into soup.

Bon Appétit!

Roasting Vegetables

Roasting vegetables is a great way to prep ahead for busy days. Vegetables can be roasted and stored in the fridge. Then:

  • Rewarm in a 325˚ oven
  • Toss into pasta
  • Toss into salads
  • Stir into risotto
  • Stir into stuffing
  • Stir into soup

Here's how:

Preheat oven to 375˚ - 450˚

Wash and drain veggies well & pat dry. Cut into similar size. Toss lightly in olive oil, coconut oil or melted ghee depending on the flavor profile of your vegetables. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place on parchment-lined sheet pan. Do not crowd. Roast until tender. Check by poking with a sharp knife. Test for seasoning adding s&p and a drizzle of flavored oil such as truffle oil, nut oils, olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

Great veggies for roasting:

  • Winter veggie 
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Summer squash
  • Winter squash
  • Root veggies, carrots, turnips, parsnips...
  • Tomatoes, halved
  • Onions, halved, cut side down
  • Shallots, peeled
  • Sweet potatoes, leaving skin on make “steak fries”
  • Japanese eggplant halved lengthwise
  • Cauliflower and broccoli, cut into florets
  • Not good: leafy vegetables

Flavors: Sprinkle before roasting with~

  • “Hearty” herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary
  • Smoked or sweet paprika 
  • Mexican spices: oregano & cumin
  • Indian spices: curry powder, turmeric, pepper
  • Chinese five spice with sweet veggies
  • Moroccan: Cumin, coriander, cinnamon
  • Drizzled honey (go lightly)

Flavors: Sprinkle after roasting~

  • Minced “fresh tender” herbs such as cilantro, parsley, tarragon, chives
  • Add pitted Kalamata or dry cured olives into the oven the last 5 minutes of roasting
  • Pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts added to oven last 4 to 5 minutes to toast
  • Capers
  • Toasted breadcrumbs
  • Citrus zest

My favorite topping for Thanksgiving Vegetables: Pecan Gremolata~

  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
  • 1 Tbls. lemon zest
  • 1 smallclove garlic, minced

Place pecans on a sheet pan and toast lightly while veggies are cooking, 4-6 minutes. Chop pecans until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Season to taste and drizzle over veggies.

Carrots with Sumac & Pomegranate Molasses

Carrots pair perfectly with the tang of sumac and the sweetness of pomegranate syrup. Use rainbow carrots for a psychedelic blast of color.

Serves 2-4

  • 2 bunches carrots, peeled and left whole or cut into thick pieces
  •  2 to 3 tsp. good olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sumac* or to taste
  • 2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
  • sea salt to taste
  • chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 450˚F

If you are using the oven anyway: 

Line a cooke sheet with parchment paper. Add the carrot and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to coat/ Roast until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the thickness of the carrots.

In a small bowl, blend the molasses, sumac and one teaspoon olive oil. When the carrots are done, drizzle them with half of the syrup mixture and a dash of salt and toss using the parchment as a cradle, rolling the carrots back and forth. Place the carrots on a serving platter and drizzle with the remaining syrup mixture.

If you aren’t using your oven and need a faster option:

Boil the carrots in a pot of salted water until they are crisp tender and not all the way done, about 4 to 8 minutes. Drain and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Pat dry with paper towel and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to coat/ Roast until tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the carrots.

In a small bowl, blend the molasses, sumac and one teaspoon olive oil. When the carrots are done, drizzle them with half of the syrup mixture and a dash of salt and toss using the parchment as a cradle, rolling the carrots back and forth. Place the carrots on a serving platter and drizzle with the remaining syrup mixture.

*Sumac is a powdered berry native to the Middle East and found in Mediterranean markets.

 

Root Vegetable Slaw

Root Vegetable Slaw  Serves 6

  • 3 medium beets, I like golden beets
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1/2 celery root
  • 1 medium kohlrabi
  • sea salt
  • 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp sherry vinegar 
  • 2 tsp superfine sugar or honey
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup mint leaves, shredded
  • 2/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel all the vegetables and slice them thinly, about 1/16 inch thick. Stack a few slices at a time on top of one another and cut them into matchstick like strips. Alternatively, use a grater or a food processor with a grater attachment. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and season liberally with salt. Set aside for 20-30 minutes. 

Make the dressing by placing the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir until the sugar and the salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat. 

Drain the vegetable strips and rinse will with cold water. Place in a clean tea towel or paper towel and pat dry. Return to a dry bowl. Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables, mix well, and chill in the fridge for at least 45 minutes. 

When ready to serve, add the herbs, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the salad. Toss well, taste, and add more salt if needed. 

Adapted from Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi