We've just come out of Thanksgiving and are heading toward…
Root crops like parsnips, beets, and carrots are staple foods for hundreds of millions of people while most of us use them as a side dish to our centre-of-plate proteins. However, having often enjoyed mini-tasting menus of fresh heirloom vegetables at local restaurants from time to time, I want to encourage you to see root veg as absolutely superlative all on their own.
At the St. Jacobs Market, I once spoke with Rob Foreman of 100-Mile Produce out of Belgrave, Ontario, northwest of Waterloo Region. Darn it if he didn’t excite me with his exuberance and energy for his products. I bought some of his carrots and beets from the St. Jacobs Farmers Market this past weekend.
Whatever you do, said Foreman, don’t boil these babies. And don’t peel them either. Give them a good washing off and get your oven temped up to 350-degrees. Coat the roots in a good olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper, and bung them in the oven in a heavy cast-iron pan.
Roast them for about an hour but don’t cook them too far: just tender so a sharp knife slips in. These root vegetables get very sweet as they roast. Carrots, for instance, can be as much as five percent sugar and in a hot oven those sugars caramelize and turn into something close to candy.
Candy cane beets, like those I bought from Foreman, which were grown by the Amish farmers he works with, have good levels of sugar in them as well and roast beautifully.
This fall, make root vegetables the centre of your dinner plate with simple roasting, olive oil, and salt and pepper. You might just be surprised.