Friday, January 14, 2011

Easy Roast Veggies


It's been a while since I've written. A LONG while. Partly because I've been busy whipping up spinach and cheese souffles, turkey meatballs with raisins and pine nuts, or salmon cakes. I've been writing about how olive oil is made, and how to properly taste it, and expanding my knowledge about one of my most favorite foods: chocolate.

And then there were the holidays. One of my most favorite times of year, but always filled with lots of gatherings, cheer, and secret missions, all in the name of Santa Claus -- until I escaped the East Coast just in time to enjoy a week of snow (and we got lots, nearly 4 feet) and the wedding festivities of a dear friend out in Utah.

Which brings me to January. That cold and dark month that is really not as dark as December, but for some odd reason feels infinitely bitter cold. Bone-chilling cold.

While I know a cup of one of my new favorite drinks, a Bailey's-spiked dark hot chocolate, would be sure to warm me up, I naturally (like most of you out there) am resolving to eat a little healthier (not a problem here), exercise a little more, and drink a little less (ah, you guessed right). So, I've held off on buying a new bottle of that oh-so-delicious booze, instead opting for the last of the bright orange carrots from the farmer's market that are just like eating crunchy sugar. And, of course, cipollinis, so I can perfect my browning onion skills.

It all started at Thanksgiving. I was in charge of helping my mom roast the turkey. Not a problem, as I had researched all the pros and cons of brining and not brining, and was confident in my decision to roast our bird au naturale, with a good slathering of butter, and of course lots of herbs.

But, when it came to one of my other most favorite Thanksgiving dishes, things were different. We had no pearl onions for the creamed onions. Dad had come to the rescue, however, finding wonderful little cipollinis (which, to be honest, are probably in much better condition, not to mention more flavorful, than those darn little pearls...). So, for that dish, I had my first meeting with these flat, little beauties, browning them deeply to create a caramelized flavor.

So, for my second meeting with cipollinis, this time along with my lovely carrots, I knew they needed some high heat to bring out their innate sweetness. As it was already 8pm on a weekday night, I didn't want to be up all night babysitting the oven -- or waiting for dinner, for that matter -- so roasting it would be.

I peeled the carrots, then sliced them in half, and chopped them in half vertically again. For the onions, I simply peeled them of their outer skin. A toss with oil, and a sprinkle of salt, and into the oven they went at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour.

With a shake every 15 minutes or so, I kept an eye on my little beauties. And it paid off. They emerged tender, yet with a little resistance to the bite. And oh so delightfully sweet -- almost too sweet to be true, when talking about vegetables.

While I ate these vegetables alone (or two days later, with the my remaining souffle), you could also toss them with your favorite pasta, and a hint of goat cheese and pasta water, to make a creamy sauce. Or toss with leftover lamb or beef, and your favorite sauce (tomato or curry) for an instant ragu to serve over pasta or rice. One of my favorite ways to eat roasted vegetables, however, is over greens, with a handful of dried cherries, a handful of salted, roasted nuts, and a garnish of whatever cheese I have in the fridge (usually Humboldt Fog or a stilton).

Easy Roasted Vegetables

1 bunch carrots
10 cipollini onions
Olive oil, to taste
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Trim and peel carrots. Remove outer layer from onions. Drizzle with olive oil to just coat, and sprinkle over a pinch of salt. Spread on foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until carrots are tender and onions are browned on both sides. Remove and serve.

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