Friday, May 3, 2013

Why Sunday Roasted Veggies Are a Work of Art…and a Salve to the Soul

By guest blogger: Jen Russon

Growing your own food is like printing your own money….that’s the vibe when you’re looking over displays of gorgeous—albeit pricey—fruits and veggies at the farmers market. Those of us who try to grow our own, wonder aloud who will wreck it first—the bugs, or petty thieves.

I can’t blame them. Veggies are a work of art. Ever really look at a radish in the raw? It’s the prettiest shade of purple you’ll ever see. No way you’d pull that one from a box of Crayola’s. Sometimes you can reason your way into the purchase of a little clump for $5. Fresh fruit and veggies are, after all, essential—not just for your reputation as a damn good cook, but for the health of your family, both physical and mental. Case in point, there seem to be two types of shoppers at the grocery store: the cranky ones who don’t smile and get gruff with the cashier while unloading hyper-processed cans and bags of “food” from their carts, and friendlier ones, buying food like they’ve just come from a Dr. Oz seminar.

I want to go up to the people buying junk food, grip their shoulders and say: “You can eat…or you can eat well…come on over to my house for Sunday Best Roasted Veggies! You won’t believe how easy it is, and how you’ll never want to buy a TV dinner again!”

My grocery cart this week was like a cornucopia without the actual cornucopia: fresh fennel, parsnips, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, red potatoes—and it all culminated in a roasted vegetable medley, tossed in pure olive oil, pinch of sea salt and a little rosemary clipped from the backyard. The aroma that ensued was just insane…I mean, it SMELLS SO GOOD, like love and comfort wrapped in golden earth, worthy of an old-century Flemish painting. You know the ones—melons, pomegranates, big bunches of carrots, potatoes and other unbridled natural riches that just beg to be taken away.

I read somewhere that the way people prepare their vegetables is a testimony of tradition and cultural heritage; for instance, most people think of carrots as orange because that’s the way they were always depicted in art—but there are actually several colors of carrots: red, purple and white. I love root vegetables—but I love my mandoline even more. I’ve tried slicing radishes and kohlrabi with a plain old kitchen knife, and it’s a slippery business that requires a firm and steady hand. The chunks wind up being too big to roast into a product that’s supposed to remind you of potato chips.         

That Kitchen Must Have aside, so long as you have an oven, you’ll be OK. Roasting veggies gives them an extra layer of flavor that makes them uber—or in the case of root veggies “tuber” delicious. You can elevate any meat dish to a classier affair with a side of roasted vegetables. They make it look like you’ve gone to a lot of extra trouble, when in fact—and I have to agree with New York Times writer, Mark Bittman here: “even the company cafeteria can’t screw them up.”

There are so many ways to prepare Sunday Best roasted veggies, good any day of the week.  Try them in a rich aioli. If you put a slice of crust-less bread, white wine vinegar, garlic cloves, egg yolks, lemon juice and zest, plus plenty of olive oil into a food processor, you can make enough sauce to dress that motherload of roasted veggies you just made all week!  When I roasted mine this morning for the blog, I mixed the roasted parsnips, fennel, radishes and red potatoes into a bowl of cold baby spinach, and sprinkled the top with a generous helping of chick peas. No one can say I’m running on empty today—I’m more likely than ever, in fact, to give a non-believer a hug. Eat your fruit and veggies, just like your Momma said, and everything will be alright!

1 comment:

Mary A. said...

Great article - really made me want to head to a farmers' market or stay longer in my local grocer's produce section! Thanks for posting!

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